Aitor Larrazabal “Iñigo Vicente Is Pure Talent”

Inigo Vicente

Iñigo Vicente is ready to prove that he deserves a place in the Athletic first team (AC)

This summer all eyes will be on Iñigo Vicente. After a dominant season with Bilbao Athletic, the 21-year-old will be spending his second straight summer training with the first team. For years Vicente has been touted as the next great player coming through Lezama and expectations will be high as he tries to earn a place at San Mamés.

Sporting Director Rafa Alkorta has been full of praise for the starlet. “There’s no talent at Lezama like Vicente”, he recently told TeleBilbao. Coaches from around the Segunda B know firsthand what it’s like to face Vicente and the great player he can become. Aitor Larrazabal, manager of Barakaldo, and Jabi Luaces, former manager of Arenas, took the time to discuss Vicente with Mundo Deportivo and admitted that he’s something special.

“He is a different player, pure talent”, began Larrazabal. “Not many like him come out of academies and football schools. He isn’t a fast or overly physical player, but every time he has the ball at his feet he is able to make a difference. You have to be patient with him. You can’t forget that he’s from the 98 generation and has emerged as one of the great promises of Athletic.”

When asked whether or not Vicente will earn a place in the first team Larrazaba quickly pointed out that it won’t be easy. One thing that the 21-year-old has in his favor is that he is extremely versatile which gives the manager many options.

“He has to prove it. The range of players in that position will be important. He has the ability to play on the wing and behind the striker. Playing on the wing and cutting inside gives him a lot more vision of the field, but playing behind the striker is where he can do the most damage. He can filter a lot of passes and have chances himself. He can adapt perfectly well in any position. Versatility is important, but you have to see what the coach asks of him. Gaizka knows him tremendously well because he had him at Bilbao Athletic. He knows what he can demand and what the player can give. The progression will depend on him and the improvement that he can make.”

Inigo Vicente

Iñigo Vicente won the Cantera Deportiva Balón de Oro for 2018 (CD)

Vicente joined Lezama at the Alevín level, but left to play at Danok Bat in 2012-2013. Larrazabal, who was coaching at the academy at the time, revealed that they let Vicente leave because the club believed that he was getting too comfortable at Lezama and needed to face another challenge to continue developing. He would return one year later.

“We took him out because we wanted to see him in a team where he needed something more. We thought that he was very comfortable at Lezama and we wanted him to have a little more demand. The year he was gone he was very good. There were top clubs that wanted to sign him. We made a strong effort and brought him back. We decided that it was good to leave for a year and get out of that state of comfort. I think he’s an important player or at least a player who can become important. Everything else that we add is excessive pressure and, therefore, we will all think he has a promising future. I would not say he’s the pearl of Lezama, for his sake.”

Jabi Luaces also sees Vicente as a potential star. “He’s a very talented player that makes opponents unbalanced and has a lot of intelligence”, said the former Arenas manager. “He contributes a lot in the final plays and has a great vision of the game for his level. I would say that he has huge talent.”

Luaces went on to also highlight Vicente’s versatility but really focused on the 21-year-old’s pure talent for the game of football. To be at his best, Luaces says Vicente has to have the ball at his feet.

“He can play anywhere in the attacking positions, on both wings or in the midfield. He can play wherever he pleases in the midfield because he has quality and that innate talent for football. He really makes opponents unbalanced. Obviously, he plays best when he has the ball because he can give definitive passes and score goals.”


Vicente must grow defensively to succeed at the highest level (Mireya López)

Being a potential star is one thing, but Luaces doesn’t believe Vicente is the most complete player coming out of Lezama. According to the former manager, it won’t be easy for Vicente to carve out a role in the first team. To do so, he will have to do everything well.

“He’s probably the most talented player in Lezama, but for me he’s not the most complete. We are talking about a big jump from the Segunda B to the Primera. The jump is huge. You will face professionals who are experienced, have more talent, and are probably stronger. He will have to work hard, be very focused, and do a lot of work both offensively and defensively if he wants to stay with the first team.”

In closing, Luaces pointed out that Vicente’s defensive contribution needs improvement. There’s no question about this offensive abilities, but to succeed at the highest level the Lezama product must also help the team when they don’t have the ball.

“There is no doubt that in today’s football more than talent is necessary. He has many strengths, but football is about collective work. I see that he has to grow a lot in the aspects of defending with the team and when he doesn’t have the ball. He has what it takes, the ability to make incredible passes and score goals, but he clearly lacks some of the work and defensive solidarity. It will be difficult for him to stay in the first team without this. Offensive work is very important in football, but so is the defensive.”

This summer will be an important time for Vicente. If the 21-year-old isn’t able to convince Gaizka Garitano he will leave on loan in order to play regular minutes. Several clubs have already expressed interest in signing the attack on loan, but the only thing Vicente is thinking about is proving that he deserves a place at San Mamés.

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