Next Season’s Bilbao Athletic Squad Starts To Take Shape
Bilbao Athletic may have missed out on earning promotion, but the first year under manager Joseba Etxeberria can only be considered a massive success. From start to finish the Kumeak played at a high level and several players proved that they are ready to take the next step in their careers. As usual, the squad will look quite different next year with other starlets getting the chance to shine.
Five players will spend the preseason with the first team. Jokin Ezkieta, Dani Vivian, Unai Vencedor, Oihan Sancet, and Jon Morcillo will all have the opportunity to earn places in Gaizka Garitano’s squad for the upcoming campaign. Vencedor and Sancet are essentially assured roles with Mikel San José and Beñat moving on, but the others will have to convince the manager.
Ezkieta’s immediate future depends on what happens with Iago Herrerín. Athletic are high on the 23-year-old, but there’s a chance that he will need to leave on loan in order to have regular minutes. The same can be said for Dani Vivian who won’t really have chances unless Unai Núñez leaves the club. Morcillo recently signed a new contract with the club, but will face stiff competition at his position.
Meanwhile, Gorka Guruzeta and Jesús Areso will leave on loan. Guruzeta made his debut last season, but returned to Bilbao Athletic when minutes were scarce and suffered a torn ACL. The young forward rejoined Etxeberria’s team back in November after being cleared to play, though he’s been unable to rediscover his best football.
According to a report from Javier Beltrán of El Correo, Guruzeta won’t have a place in the first team next season but will join a Segunda club on loan in hopes of getting back to his best. With just one year left on his contract, Guruzeta will be facing one of the biggest challenges of his young career. Real Oviedo, Numancia, and Real Zaragoza have all shown interest in signing the 23-year-old.
Jesús Areso has proven that he’s ready for a bigger challenge and will also be going out on loan. The right-back has a bright future ahead but isn’t ready to challenge Ander Capa, Óscar De Marcos, and Iñigo Lekue for minutes just yet. Areso is expected to have multiple offers from Segunda clubs.
Four others will be moving on as well, but not through promotions. Jon Rojo, Javier Murua, and Antonio Salado have all left the club after seeing the contracts expire, along with Asier Córdoba who turned down a renewal offer to seek regular playing time elsewhere.
Returning to Bilbao Athletic next season will be Ander Iru, Jon Sillero (who may have offers to leave on loan), Oier Luengo, Julen Bernaola, Imanol García de Albéniz, Iñigo Baqué, Victor San Bartolomé, Oier Zarraga, Juan Artola, Ewan Urain, and Andoni Tascón. Antxon Jaso and Christophe Atangana will rejoin the team after spending last season on loan, though both will likely leave once again.
Bilbao Athletic will also receive reinforcements from Basconia, although it’s not yet clear how many players will be promoted. Álvaro Núñez, Aitor Paredes, and Beñat Prados are sure to move up. All three made their Bilbao Athletic debuts last season and are expected to have starting roles.
Basconia captain Youssouf Diarra, Julen Agirrezabala, Aritz De Miguel, Xabier Areberas, Ander Lorente, Mikel Kortazar, and Jon Cabo could all be promoted as well, or at least split time between the two teams. De Miguel is expected to go out on loan again. Ruben Azcona will continue at Basconia to have minutes, but will be available to Etxeberria. Finally, Juvenil A starlets Nico Serrano and Nico Williams have both been promoted to Bilbao Athletic and will be given every chance to fight for starting roles.
The ultimate goal of Bilbao Athletic is to prepare players for the first team. At the same time, it’s important for the Kumeak to be competitive. Even though several key players will be taking the step up next season, Joseba Etxeberria will welcome a number of new faces who will be eager to prove themselves in a much higher level of football.