Loan Watch: Andoni López Has Hit The Ground Running With Almeria
Over the last two years Andoni López has arguably been the most consistent and reliable player at Bilbao Athletic. The left-back has constantly played at a high level and proved that he was ready to face stronger competition. He had offers to join Numancia on loan during the winter transfer window, but the decision was made for him to stay in case he was needed by the first team. That day eventually came when he made his debut on 4 February.
Going into the summer many fans wondered if Andoni López would have a chance to earn a regular place in the first team after being called up to train under new manager Eduardo Berizzo. With Mikel Balenziaga in place and new signings Yuri Berchiche and Cristian Ganea coming in, it be came clear that López would find it hard to enjoy regular minutes which he needed to continue developing. The 22-year-old reached an agreement with Athletic to extend his contract through 2021 and in mid-August he left to join Almeria on loan.
Playing in the second division was a natural step for López who now has the chance to prove himself against stronger competition and Almeria where willing to give him the opportunity. Since making the move he has earned a place in the starting lineup where he has impressed and has already become an integral player for the club.
Over the four league matches he has played in López has been one of the best left-backs in the Segunda. On a per-game basis he is averaging more tackles (2.2), aerials (1.8), interceptions (1.2), recoveries (4), and clearances (2.4) than the league average for defenders. He’s also always been a dangerous player going forward and has proven that by putting in more than twice as many crosses per game (2.2) than other defenders in the second division.
Statistics aside, the most important thing to note is that the Lezama product has looked confident and strong in the Segunda. There hasn’t really been much of a learning curve and that has allowed him to hit the ground running and start proving himself from the first day he arrived at the club back in August. There may only be a small sample size to analyze at this point, but López is doing all the right things so far.
Along with giving López the minutes to continue his development, the loan move will also give him the opportunity to fight for his place at the San Mamés. The club already views him as an important player for the future and this year away could be just the thing to make that a reality. If he continues to play at this level there is no doubt that the 22-year-old will return to Athletic next summer with a very good chance of earning a place in the first team.