Returning To Rayo Vallecano On Loan Might Be The Best Thing For Unai López

Unai Lopez Iker Muniain Celebrate

Unai López and Iker Muniain celebrate a goal against Rayo Vallecano (LaLiga)

It’s been an interesting week for Unai López. Several days ago a report claimed that the midfielder had asked Athletic to send him back to Rayo Vallecano on loan and then Rayo’s Sporting Director admitted that they were interesting in signing the 23-year-old. At the same time, López spent several days training with the starting lineup ahead of Athletic’s match against Alavés but, in the end, wasn’t even called up for the trip to Gasteiz.

Things haven’t gone quite the way López expected this season. Last year he was one of the best players in the Segunda, helping Rayo earn promotion, and was rewarded by Athletic with a contract extension running through 2022. He looked great during the preseason and even started the first game of the year against Leganés at the San Mamés, but since then López has struggled for minutes.

With Dani García, Beñat, Mikel San José, Raúl García, Iker Muniain, and even Mikel Rico standing in his way there haven’t been many opportunities for Unai López. He’s only featured in five games this year, making three starts, and one has to wonder just how many minutes he will actually get to play over the course of the season. Returning to Rayo may just be the best move for the 23-year-old at this point.

Rayo’s interest in López is serious and understandable. Gorka Elustondo’s season ending ACL injury has left a hole in the midfield and López would be trusted to start every single week. He’s already proven himself to the club, which is part of the reason why they are targeting him specifically, and he understands how to play in Michel’s system. The chance to play regular minutes in La Liga, in a place where he is comfortable, would be great for the 23-year-old who is still trying to cement his place at Athletic despite signing a contract extension just months ago.

Unai López wants to succeed at Athletic. After spending several years at Lezama he loves the club and wants to have an important role at the San Mamés for years to come. For that to happen he must find a way to earn more playing time to prove himself and returning to Rayo for the rest of the season might just be the best way to make that happen. The move could be in the best interests of everyone, but it will be up to the next President to decide in the upcoming January transfer window.

Sending López back to Rayo for the remainder of the season could benefit Athletic in other ways as well. The Lions have made it clear that they want to sign Rayo starlet Sergio Moreno which would be made easier if the Basques included López as part of the deal. This will definitely be a story to watch over the next few weeks leading up to the transfer window opening, although the current Management Committee are said to have chosen to leave the issues for the next President to decide.

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