Iñigo Lekue Must Have A Strong Preseason To Convince Gaizka Garitano
Iñigo Lekue wants to forget last season. Before the campaign even started all signs pointed to the Lezama product leaving Athletic because he wasn’t part of Eduardo Berizzo’s plans. However, a fractured ankle saw a loan move fall apart. Once Lekue finally returned to training in December it didn’t last long as he had to undergo surgery to repair a disc in his lower back.
It took until March for Lekue to finally make his season debut and he would go on to feature in a total of just four matches. “It’s hard to miss almost a whole season”, he said after coming on as a substitute against Atlético Madrid. “After two injuries and going through the operating room twice, it feels like you will never see the light. Getting back on the field was a victory.”
Now that Lekue is fully healed the real test begins. Ander Capa and Oscar De Marcos are the main options at right-back with the same being true for Yuri Berchiche and Mikel Balenziaga at left-back. It will be extremely difficult for Lekue to compete for a starting role at San Mamés, but his versatility could make him a valuable asset to Garitano due to the fact that he can play on either side of the defense and at both wing positions.
Like the fullback spots, Athletic already have strong players on the wings. Still, going into the summer it was reported that Garitano wanted to add depth at the position and Lekue could be one of the players who could prove his worth by being able to operate in multiple areas of the field. Versatility is an invaluable asset, though Lekue must also show that he can perform at a high level when given the opportunity.
With a current squad of 33 players, Garitano will have to trim the team this summer and there won’t be room for everyone. Iñigo Lekue is certainly one of the players who could end up leaving on loan with clubs like Leganés and Real Valladolid said to be interested. The 26-year-old is still under contract through 2023 and is determined to succeed at Athletic. For that to happen, he must have a strong preseason and prove to Garitano that he can be an important player this year.