Unai Simón, The Golden Boy Of The San Mamés
Athletic fans are fiercely loyal. If a player gives their all and are committed to the club the fans will adore them for eternity and sing their praises. Kepa Arrizabalaga was well on his way to becoming a legend before leaving for Chelsea over the summer. Athleticzales were furious and turned their affection to Alex Remiro who is now in a contract dispute and has yet to play this season. As a result, Unai Simón was thrust into the spotlight and has quickly become the golden boy of the San Mamés.
Simón has never been the type of player to be the focal point or stand in the spotlight. He’s always been a quiet, reserved, and humble kid who is just focused on working hard. Even when he became the starting goalkeeper for the Spain U21 team he still flew under the radar as the praise was heaped on other players. Over the summer he signed a contract extension with Athletic through 2023 and happily left to join Elche on loan in the second division.
One month later Simón answered a phone call to learn that Athletic were calling him back from loan. Kepa had left, Iago Herrerín was injured, and Remiro was still refusing to sign a new contract. Five days later Simón was told that he would be starting in the first game of the season. He made his debut against Leganés and, admittedly, most fans didn’t know what to expect. The 21-year-old went on to perform well and made a brilliant save to help lead Athletic to a 2-1 victory.
Simón would then start the next game against Huesca where Athletic weren’t able to hold their lead and played to a 2-2 draw. Even though he surrendered two goals, they were both amazing shots that the Lezama product could not have stopped. Two games into his Primera career Simón was looking sharp, but Saturday’s match against Real Madrid was a completely different test.
Going into the game Simón admitted that he was shocked when he was told that he would be making his debut against Leganés. He didn’t believe it and said that his life has completely changed since coming back from his loan with Elche. He also stated that he hasn’t accomplished anything yet and needs to keep his feet firmly planted on the ground so that he can continue to improve as a player.
Simón showed no fear ahead of Saturday’s game and was confident confident when talking to reporters. That was evident as soon as the game began. In the first half he was called upon to make two amazing saves and was up for the challenge. He stopped a blistering shot from Marco Asensio and then made a diving save to deny Luka Modric at the far post. Beyond the saves he was vocal, composed, and was willing to leave his line in order to claim crosses and give his teammates a passing option.
The second half required even more from Simón. He did well to stop a free kick from Gareth Bale and then had to make a point blank save to stop Sergio Ramos from scoring on the followup. As the game continued Isco was able to score a beautiful header that couldn’t be stopped, but Simón did not let it affect him. He then kept Real Madrid from taking the lead later in the game when he made another close range save against Asensio and was, without a doubt, the man of the match.
Even before the game against Real Madrid fans were already in full support of Unai Simón and were showing him immense affection, but afterwards things have been taken to another level. He is still young and has a lot of room for improvement, but he’s earned the backing of the fans. The 21-year-old has achieved his childhood dream of playing for the Athletic first team in what has been a truly remarkable story and it’s only just beginning. Without a doubt, Unai Simón has become the golden boy of the San Mamés.