Asier Villalibre Proving He’s Ready To Take The Next Step In His Career
It’s been over 2 years since Asier Villalibre made his debut with the Athletic first team. At the time he was just 19 years old and dazzling with Bilbao Athletic. The young striker would go on to make 8 appearances under manager Ernesto Valverde, but the time was short-lived. He would eventually leave on loan to sign with Numancia where his career took a sharp turn.
After returning to Athletic in the summer Villalibre was quickly sent out again to the Segunda, this time to Real Valladolid. He would feature in 18 games, but only managed to score two goals and played limited minutes. In January he found himself at another club, relegation bound Lorca, where in 12 games he continued struggling to prove himself.
Once Villalibre returned to Athletic last summer the club had a difficult decision to make. It was quickly agreed that he would not leave for a fourth time. Loans had proved detrimental to his development and Athletic still had faith that the young striker from Gernika could live up to his potential. The Zurigorri decided that he would train with the first team and eventually return to Bilbao Athletic for the regular season.
Going back to playing in the Segunda B could have felt as though Villalibre’s career was moving in the wrong direction, but sometimes a player needs to take a step backward in order to take multiple steps forward. The promising young striker had lost his confidence. He’d spent the last two years desperately trying to find his footing and the rhythm needed to play his best football. The goal of returning to Bilbao Athletic was to surround Villalibre with the comforts of home and take the pressure off his shoulders. It was a risk, but it’s proved to be the perfect move.
This season Villalibre is looking like the exciting young striker of two years ago. He’s scoring goals in every way possible, holding up play, providing assists, and making his presence felt every single match. Through 29 games he’s scored 17 goals, one short of the Segunda B leader, and has also assisted 5 times. The 21-year-old has been one of the best forwards in the entire league and he’s now approaching historic numbers.
Throughout his Bilbao Athletic career, Villalibre has scored a total of 31 goals. He’s just one strike behind Ángel Vélez Rojo (32) and closing in on the all-time leader Julio Salinas who netted 44 times. It will be difficult for Villalibre to break the scoring record for the Katxorros, though he still has 9 games left in the season. History aside, Villalibre is proving that he’s finally ready to take the next step forward in his career. The Lezama product has rediscovered his confidence, his best football, and is playing with the tenacity and killer instinct that has always made him stand out among his peers.
Villalibre’s current contract will expire next June, but sources claim that a renewal is expected soon. The striker wants to stay at the club and Athletic are keen to give him the chance to train with the first team again this summer. He will have the opportunity to convince Gaizka Garitano to keep him in the squad, but if he can’t he will return to the second division on loan where Athletic believe he can be a starter and play heavy minutes. Coming home to Bilbao Athletic was the perfect decision and now the 21-year-old is primed for whatever comes next.