Dani García And Unai López Forming Strong Partnership During Preseason Training
This may very well be one of the most important summers for Athletic in recent history. After four straight years of playing in Europe, the Lions have failed to qualify the past two seasons and must secure a top-seven finish to justify a large wage bill. As manager, Gaizka Garitano will be the one to make the difficult decisions as he looks to build a team capable of accomplishing the goal.
There won’t be many changes in the lineup this season with Jokin Ezkieta being the only signing. However, six players have been called up from Bilbao Athletic and will compete for a place in the team. Garitano will use the preseason to determine who will stay and who will leave on loan, but this is also the perfect time to tinker with new rotations and ideas which could make the Lions even stronger.
Throughout the preseason Garitano has been testing a midfield pairing of Dani García and Unai López. García is an unrivaled starter in the team, but last year spent most matches playing alongside Beñat. Meanwhile, López rarely saw the field though he performed well when given the opportunity. The two have started to build a strong partnership and have worked together more than any other duo.
Going into the summer there was belief that López could be competing just to stay in the team. Now it seems as though he will definitely continue at the club and could even be given more minutes this season. The 23-year-old has shown the ability to play at a high level and has the qualities to compliment García in the middle of the field. While García protects the backline, López can be free to create chances and pick out passes much like Beñat does.
For now, there’s no reason to believe that López will be chosen to start over Beñat. That being said, Beñat is entering the final year of his contract and Athletic are waiting to see how he performs this season before offering the 32-year-old a renewal. If López is able to take his game to the next level, he could be fighting for a more important role at San Mamés now and for years to come.
Garitano’s reasoning for testing García and López together isn’t clear at the moment. The manager could realistically be toying with the idea of shuffling the starting lineup or simply ensuring that the pair have a good understanding of playing together before the season begins. Either way, the Mister will have plenty of options to choose from this year as Athletic tries to return to Europe.