Athletic Will Turn To Dani Vivian And Peru Nolaskoain If Unai Núñez Leaves The Club
The future of Unai Núñez appears bleak. Unhappy with his role at Athletic, which only includes scarce minutes while sitting behind Yeray and Iñigo Martinez, the young defender could possibly choose leave the club in January. If the 22-year-old does decide to move elsewhere there will be no shortage of suitors.
West Ham have already informed Athletic that they are prepared to pay the defender’s €30 million release clause while Bayern Munich are also interested in signing Núñez and would be willing to include Javi Martínez as part of a deal. Núñez’s refusal to sign a renewal offer unless he is guaranteed regular playing time has left Athletic in a precarious situation where they must now consider how to compensate for his possible departure.
The fact that Núñez isn’t a regular starter does make it easier to replace him in theory, though Athletic prefer to not have to do so. If the defender does in fact choose to leave in January the club will have a few options to consider. To begin with, Mikel San José can function as a center-back and Mikel Vesga has trained at the position as well. More importantly, Dani Vivian currently serves as the team’s fourth center-back and would be the natural successor.
While Vivian has yet to make his first team debut the club has high expectations for the 20-year-old who stands out for his positioning, strong tackling, exceptional ability to win battles in the air, and for being a scoring threat on set-pieces. Vivian, who established himself as a leader at Bilbao Athletic last season, is viewed as a player with the potential to develop into a starter at San Mamés though he has missed most of the campaign with a back injury. Thankfully, the defender recently returned to training and will be cleared to play again soon.
Although Vivian can be the short-term solution to replace Núñez, he isn’t the only option for the future. Peru Nolaskoain has also played at a high level as a center-back and, once he returns from Deportivo on loan, the two would compete for minutes according to Javier Beltrán of AS. Naturally a defensive midfielder, Nolaskoain offers versatility that could make him a valuable player for Athletic next season.
If Núñez leaves the best case scenario would be for Dani Vivian to take his role in the team which would leave Peru Nolaskoain to be used primarily in the midfield while also being available as a fourth center-back when needed. Both starlets have bright futures ahead and, while Núñez may have a higher ceiling, they could become important players at San Mamés. In the end, Athletic are hopeful that they will be able to convince Unai Núñez to stay but the decision will ultimately be his to make.