Peru Nolaskoain Is Facing The Biggest Week Of His Career So Far
Football can be a funny thing. Peru Nolaskoain has been learning that since being called up to the first team over the summer and making the switch to center-back under new manager Eduardo Berizzo. The 19-year-old started alongside Yeray in the first two games of the season and is now expected to do so again on Friday in the Basque Derby with Iñigo Martinez currently dealing with a muscle injury in his right thigh.
Nolaskoain was born in the town of Zumaia in the province of Gipuzkoa and grew up a fan of Real Sociedad. He attended the famous academy of Antiguoko, where most players go on to join Real Sociedad’s youth system, and always looked destined to play at the Anoeta. Everything changed in 2015 when he rejected an offer from La Real in favor of moving to Lezama. The decision was shocking, to say the least.
Since coming to Athletic the teenager has always stood out among his peers. He played his first season with the Juvenil A team and then skipped CD Basconia to go straight to Bilbao Athletic. He would perform at a high level for the Katxorros over two years before eventually being called up to the first team by Eduardo Berizzo just a few months ago. The new manager then began transitioning Nolaskoain to center-back which, at the time, seemed very odd. It’s now safe to say that the move has been a stroke of genius.
The first two games against Leganés and Huesca saw good performances from Nolaskoain. Due to having previously played as a midfielder he was comfortable on the ball and able to pass well, but he also showed a firm grasp of defensive positioning. He was strong in the air and not afraid to challenge for the ball. Just watching the game you wouldn’t have noticed that he was only 19 years old and had only been playing the position for less than two months.
On Saturday Iñigo Martinez had to leave the game against Barcelona with an injury in the 23rdminute, which saw Nolaskoain take his place. The teenager was thrown into the fire, but was once again impressive. He was calm and composed in defense and showed no fear against a Barcelona team full of players viewed as some of the best in the world, and at the Camp Nou no less. Although he is still learning the position it is clear that Nolaskoain has the talent to become a very good center-back and the mindset to work hard every day to continue improving his game.
Nolaskoain’s incredible story hasn’t gone unnoticed. Reports recently surfaced that revealed Real Sociedad approached the 19-year-old over the summer. They offered to pay his €8 million release clause to bring him to the Anoeta, but Nolaskoain rejected. He wants to stay at Athletic, which has become his home, and he knows that he will be given the opportunities to cement his place in the first team. He’s happy in Bilbao and has no plans to leave.
Now his future at the San Mamés is about to become more secure than ever. The club and player have been negotiating a contract renewal for a few weeks and reports claim that an agreement is already in place. With his current deal set to expire next summer, Nolaskoain is expected to sign a 5-6 year extension that will also raise his release clause to somewhere between €50-60 million and improve his wages to reflect his current status in the team. Sources say that the deal is done and that an announcement could come at any time.
With that being the case, Peru Nolaskoain is now facing the biggest week of his young career. Not only is the defender waiting for his first major contract to become official, he’s also preparing to start against Real Sociedad on Friday, just 20 days before his 20thbirthday. Years ago he probably never would have believed that he would be lining up against Real Sociedad, especially not with Athletic. Then again, he also likely never thought that he would be playing center-back in the Primera. Football can be unpredictable, but for Peru Nolaskoain it’s all worked out in an incredible way.