Sabin Merino Has The Chance To Save His Athletic Club Career With Loan Move To Leganés
Back in the summer of 2015 Sabin Merino realized his childhood dream of playing for Athletic Club when then-manager Ernesto Valverde promoted him to the first team. The forward would go on to help the team win the Spanish Super Cup and scored seven goals which led many to believe that he could potentially be the successor to Aritz Aduriz. Everything looked exciting and promising for the Lezama product, but then things changed.
The following season Merino suffered from a lingering groin injury and struggled to play regular minutes. It affected his performance on the field which carried over into his third year which was under new manager Kuko Ziganda. Going into this summer the 26-year-old was well aware of the fact that he was not going to get the chance to play very often and other clubs began to show interest in signing him.
Merino fielded offers from several clubs in the second division, especially Sporting Gijon, but Leganés made the biggest push to sign the forward. Week after week he rejected the proposals with his mind made up that he would fight for his place at his beloved club. With his contract set to expire next summer Merino wanted to prove that he deserved an extension but in the final hours of the transfer window he finally agreed to join Leganés on loan where he will spend the 2018/2019 season.
Joining Leganés confirms what was already well known, which is that Merino was not going to have minutes at Athletic this season. He was already standing behind Aritz Aduriz, Iñaki Williams, and even Raúl García in the pecking order and recently Gorka Guruzeta has overtaken him as well. Without having the chance to play there was no way that Merino was going to earn a contract extension, but this loan move now gives him the opportunity to save his Athletic Club career.
Leganés pursued Sabin Merino because they viewed him as a player who could compete in their starting lineup and perform well in La Liga. In his first three seasons he’s shown the ability to create chances and put himself in scoring positions, but his finishing has been the big issue. The 26-year-old has clearly been suffering from a lack of confidence and not playing regular football has only added to the issue. He may not have played well over the last two years, but the talent has always been there.
Now that he will be playing every week Merino will have the chance to rediscover his best football and find his rhythm once again. If he can build his confidence and start scoring goals like he did in his debut season with Athletic he could earn the contract extension that he has been hoping to receive. It will take a strong campaign to convince Berizzo and those at Ibaigane, but spending the year on loan with Leganés gives Merino the best chance to prove himself.