Making Sense Of Cristian Ganea’s Place In The Athletic Club Squad
After just three games this year Eduardo Berizzo is already taking advantage of the squad depth that he praised during the preseason. The manager said on multiple occasions that everyone needed to be ready to contribute for the team and he has already used 20 different players so far. Only six players have yet to feature this season and one of them is starting to raise questions.
There was plenty of surprise back in 2017 when Athletic announced the signing of Cristian Ganea from Viitorul. Most fans had never heard of the left-back and there was confusion as to whether or not he even fit the transfer policy. Still, with Mikel Balenziaga getting older and Enric Saborit struggling to perform well it was clear that the team needed help at the position. The club elected to let him stay in Romania for the remainder of the season and he officially joined Athletic over the summer.
During his presentation President Josu Urrutia took the time to highlight the fact that the 26-year-old was versatile and that proved to be a major talking point throughout the preseason. During friendly matches he split time between left-back and wing, but since the season began he has yet to even be called up for a match. In fact, he’s the only new signing that has yet to debut and his absence has raised concerns over his place in the team.
Had Athletic known last year that they would be signing Yuri Berchiche they might not have even pursued Ganea. Berchiche is on a different level than the other left-backs in the team and has played every minute so far this season. Mikel Balenziaga was also left out of the squad for the first two games, but was then called up over the weekend for the match against Real Madrid. During the preseason it was clear that Berizzo preferred Balenziaga as the backup to Berchiche and that hasn’t changed.
Ganea’s versatility does allow him to play on the wing which could eventually allow him to see minutes, but right now there are other players ahead of him in the pecking order. Iñaki Williams, Markel Susaeta, Iñigo Córdoba, Iker Muniain, and even Gorka Guruzeta have been preferred by Berizzo and there haven’t been enough minutes to go around early in the campaign.
Things get even more difficult when you remember that Ganea has never played football at this level before. He was a star in Romania but La Liga is a completely different entity and it will take time for the 26-year-old to find his footing in Spain. Perhaps he is being left out of the squad until he shows that he is ready for the competition, but it certainly has to do with the players in front of him as well. At this point there are a lot of obstacles standing in his way and Ganea’s Athletic Club career could be defined by how he handles this situation.
It is difficult to gauge just what Ganea’s role in the team will be as the season progresses. With so much competition in the squad it will be hard for him to find regular minutes and that means that he will have to make the most of the chances that he is given. As the weeks pass there will be more opportunities to go around and it will be up to the Romanian to prove that he deserves a regular place in the team moving forward.