Asier Villalibre Has Rediscovered His Best Football Since Returning To Bilbao Athletic
Asier Villalibre has already been through more at 21 years old than most players will in their entire career. After making his first team debut nearly two years ago, back in December of 2016, the striker has faced an abundance of adversity. He’s spent time on loan with Numancia, Real Valladolid, and Lorca but was unable to establish himself, scoring only three goals during that time.
When Villalibre returned to Athletic over the summer he had one year remaining on his contract and plenty of questions regarding his future with the club. Could he actually compete for a place in the first team? Would he ever be able to live up to the potential he showed at Lezama? Should he leave on loan for the Segunda once again? Had he been thrust into much more difficult competition before he was ready?
From the vert start of preseason training it was clear that Villalibre wouldn’t have a place in the first team. The other strikers in the squad were at a much higher level and, even if he did stay under Eduardo Berizzo, his chances would be virtually non-existent. The club had to make a decision on where the forward would spend the year and finally decided on a return to Bilbao Athletic.
At first the move looked like a serious step back for the Lezama product, which it was, but the club had a plan. The hope was that Villalibre would rediscover his confidence and composure at home as opposed to leaving on loan again where his development had been stifled. Perhaps he had been forced into a higher level of football before he was ready and coming back to the reserve team would let him settle back down.
So far the decision has proven to be fantastic. In just 13 games this season Villalibre has been one of the most important players for Bilbao Athletic and looks like the same young striker he was before being called up to the first team back in 2016. He’s playing with intensity, confidence, and it’s clear that he’s enjoying his football once again.
The 21-year-old has already scored 7 goals for Bilbao Athletic and it’s still only November. He also netted a brace against Norwich City on Wednesday in the Premier League International Cup, bringing his total for the year to an impressive 9 goals and he could have even more. Scoring this many times at this point in the season is remarkable and so is the way he’s finishing chances.
Villalibre has done it all this year. He’s scored with his head, used excellent positioning to capitalize on loose balls, created chances for himself, and rippled the back of the net with powerful shots. He’s been a constant threat as a target in the box and would even have a few more goals this year if it wasn’t for some amazing saves from opposing goalkeepers. He’s playing the best football of his career at the moment and that’s exactly what the club was hoping to see.
Villalibre’s fine form hasn’t gone unnoticed either. He’s been regularly called up to train with the first team where he’s had the opportunity to continue learning from the veteran players. In just a few short months he’s gone from being a young star who looked like he was running out of chances at Athletic to rediscovering his best football and showing signs that he may still be able to live up to his potential. There’s still a lot of football left to played this season, but Asier Villalibre’s return to Bilbao Athletic is already looking like a massive success.