Athletic Puts Faith In Lezama Over Transfer Signings

Asier Villalibre Inigo Vicente

Asier Villalibre and Iñigo Vicente can be the future of Athletic (MD)

After failing to qualify for Europe in two consecutive years it’s imperative that Athletic secure a top 7 finish this coming season. The lack of European revenue coming into the club has made the current wage bill relatively unsustainable and the Lions must return to Europe to continue competing at the highest level. With that being the case, Athletic are now facing one of the most crucial summers in recent memory.

Gaizka Garitano will oversee his first summer as Athletic manager after taking over the team in December, which should bring added structure. The squad clearly needs to be strengthened and it will be up to the Mister to decide which players should stay, who should leave, and which transfer targets should be pursued. As always, Lezama stands out as the best option and Garitano will give young starlets the chance to earn their place in the team before looking outside the club.

Several months ago President Aitor Elizegi admitted that the club was interested in signing players like Ander Herrera, Javi Martinez, and Fernando Llorente. One by one those targets have been ruled out, except for Martinez who the club believes won’t be leaving Bayern Munich. Athletic then turned their attention to Torino winger Alex Berenguer, but the Italian side is demanding a fee of €10 million which could see the Basques walk away. Targets are few and far between which makes Lezama the answer.

Last month the club chose not to renew the contract of Xabi Etxeita and ruled out signing Jonas Ramalho. Instead, they have put their faith in Bilbao Athletic defender Dani Vivian to be the team’s fourth center-back. At the same time, Elizegi recently announced that the club would not be pursuing Llorente because there are already four strikers in the squad. One of those four is Asier Villalibre who just signed a new contract and will be given the chance to earn his place in the first team this summer. In both cases, the club has chosen to give opportunities to young players instead of spending money on someone else.

Dani Vivian

Dani Vivian celebrates a goal earlier this season (Zabaleta)

It’s no secret that Garitano wants to strengthen the wing position which is why Athletic set their sights on Berenguer. However, Gaizka Larrazabal and Iñigo Vicente have both been promoted from Bilbao Athletic and will also have the opportunity to convince the Mister this summer. The hope is that one or both of the starlets will prove that the club doesn’t need to sign anyone like Berenguer.

Oihan Sancet and Hodei Oleaga will also spend the summer training with the first team, while Unai Vencedor will continue at Bilbao Athletic in order to be available to Garitano throughout the season. In total, six players from Bilbao Athletic have been called up to the first team and the club even posted a picture of the group, highlighting the next generation of Athletic footballers.

“It doesn’t look like there will be any signings this summer”, admitted Sporting Director Rafa Alkorta in an interview with TeleBilbao. “The young players coming up have to contribute. They are quality players, very young players. In the end, we have to give chances to those who have proven themselves at Lezama, as always.”

For every need that the squad has, there is a young player ready to step up. Lezama has always been the pillar on which Athletic stands and this summer could see that truth put to the test. The club understands the importance of bringing in new quality but has been hesitant to pull the trigger on any signings. Instead, Athletic seem content to give Lezama starlets the chance to be the answers. The club isn’t expected to make any other signings this summer and will once again put their faith in Lezama.

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