Javier Barbero “Unai Simón’s Biggest Virtue Is His Competitiveness”
Unai Simón has always been destined for greatness. As a graduate of Lezama, no one was surprised when the young goalkeeper put in spectacular performances with the first team last season and he’s continued to improve with each passing week. Simón was a standout player at every level of the Athletic youth academy, though his incredible potential was identified long before he joined Lezama.
Javier Barbero, a former scout for Aurrera Vitoria, was the one who originally discovered Simón and shared the story with Fuera de Juego on Tuesday night’s radio show. “I have known Unai since he was 11 years old, from his first year at the Alevin stage at the team in his hometown of Murgia”, Barbero began. “I was struck by his character, his self-confidence. At the age of 11 he was already fulfilling a role that other goalkeepers don’t reach until more advanced ages.”
One of the biggest things that always stood out about Simón was his competitiveness. Even at a young age the goalkeeper wanted to be the very best and had to learn how to handle his frustrations after making mistakes.
“Unai was ultra-competitive as a child. He always wanted to do everything right the first time and sometimes he left training crying. We worked to control his frustration. We spent time with him to reassure him and explain that not everything goes well at first. Unai competes with himself to be better. He gives a high level in all facets of the game, but his biggest virtue is his competitiveness.”
Once the opportunity to join Lezama came along, it was clear that Simón had to take the next step in his development. He would sign with Athletic at the age of 14 and rose through the youth ranks very quickly. Still just 22 years old, Simón has already established himself as one of the best goalkeepers in La Liga.
“I told Aurrera that there was a possibility of Unai going to the Athletic school, to Lezama. We thought it would be good for his improvement to go there. The Athletic goal is not just any goal and he is assuming his role in an absolutely exceptional way. It’s difficult to find a weakness in Unai’s game. He has everything that is asked of a modern goalkeeper.”
Unai Simón still has an entire career ahead of him and his story could be great. For Javier Barbero, he’s just happy to have played a role in helping start that story. “It’s a source of pride for me to see a boy that I signed for Aurrera as an 11 year old to be competing a decade later in the Primera. He’s a kid that I have a lot of appreciation for.”