Athletic Eye Xabi Etxeita Renewal Or Jonas Ramalho Return To Add Defensive Depth This Summer
For Athletic, everything comes down to the final match of the season against Sevilla. Everything. This game will determine whether or not the Lions will qualify for Europe which, in turn, will also play a major role in squad decisions this summer. Gaizka Garitano and Rafa Alkorta are already making preparations for next season though not everything can be addressed at the moment.
If Athletic do manage to qualify for Europe, squad depth will be a very important focus. One area that the club is already looking to strengthen is that of center-back. Yeray, Unai Nuñez, and Iñigo Martinez have all established themselves are vital players in the team, but there is a major need for a fourth defender. Peru Nolaskoain has held that role this season, though Garitano views the 20-year-old as a midfielder which is his natural position.
Bilbao Athletic’s Dani Vivian will train with the first team this summer after signing a contract renewal, however it’s unlikely that he will earn the 4th center-back role. While Garitano will give the 19-year-old the chance to fight for his place in the team, the club wants Vivian to be able to play regular football to continue his development. It’s highly likely that the Lezama product will leave on loan before the season begins in order to enjoy regular minutes.
Athletic must wait until Europe is confirmed, but the club already has two targets to add depth to the squad this summer in Xabi Etxeita and Jonas Ramalho. Both defenders have history with the club, have proven themselves in the Primera, and wouldn’t cost Athletic anything.
Etxeita is currently on loan with Huesca where he’s had a tremendous season. Wearing the captain’s armband, the 31-year-old has rediscovered his best form and would bring experience and leadership to the squad. His current contract with Athletic is set to expire on 30 June, but the deal also contains a clause that gives the club the option to renew the contract for another year.
At this point, Etxeita is waiting to find out what his future holds. According to a report from Javier Beltrán of AS, Athletic have told the defender that they are still waiting to make a decision which will likely come after Saturday’s pivotal match against Sevilla. Etxeita left on loan this season because he wasn’t going to have many chances to play, but being back in Europe next year would change things. In the meantime, the defender already has offers on the table from two clubs in Turkey’s first division.
After being unable to earn a place in the Athletic first team, Ramalho has established himself as a Primera defender since joining Girona. The 25-year-old now has several years of experience and became a leader for the Catalans who offered him a contract renewal back in December. Ramalho has yet to respond to the offer and is waiting to hear from Athletic before making any decision about his future.
Etxeita and Ramalho are both terrific options to add to the Athletic squad, especially if the Lions are able to qualify for Europe. The two defenders would provide necessary depth and the fact that would be free additions is certainly a bonus. Etxeita has more experience at the top level of football, but Ramalho could be a more long term option due to the fact that he’s much younger. Garitano and Alkorta will have a difficult decision to make, but the only thing that matters right now is getting a positive result on Saturday.