Gaizka Garitano Intends To Find A Place For Iñigo Vicente In The First Team

Iñigo Vicente returns from loan ready to fight for his place in the first team (MD)

Athletic need reinforcements next season to contend for a top seven finish. Unfortunately, the club has all but ruled out any transfer signings this summer which means that Lezama will once again be the answer. Between those being promoted and returning from loan, Gaizka Garitano will have many options to choose from to improve the squad.

Earlier today Sporting Director Rafa Alkorta confirmed that five players from Bilbao Athletic will spend the preseason with the first team. Unai Vencedor, Dani Vivian, Jon Morcillo, Jesús Areso, and Oier Zarraga will all get the opportunity to show their quality, though not all will stay.

Vencedor seems assured a role in the first team after making his debut last season. With Mikel San José and Beñat leaving the club there is need for more midfielders in the squad. Vivian and Morcillo will compete with other players in their positions, but it’s more likely that the pair will leave on loan to the Second Division to continue developing.

Areso won’t be overtaking Ander Capa, Óscar De Marcos, or Iñigo Lekue and is set for a loan as well. Meanwhile, Zarraga is coming off of an impressive first season with Bilbao Athletic and is expected to continue under Joseba Etxeberria. Both starlets have shown potential to one day reach the first team.

“I see myself in the first team next season.” (CDM)

On the other hand Iñigo Vicente, Peru Nolaskoain, Cristian Ganea, Andoni López, and Hodei Oleaga will all be returning from loan. López and Oleaga will find it difficult to earn a place in the squad, making another loan the likely scenario, while Alkorta has confirmed that the club will be speaking to Ganea about terminating his contract this summer.

Vicente and Nolaskoain return the most prepared to realistically challenge for first team minutes. Nolaskoain was excellent with Deportivo last season in the Segunda and can fill a role left by San José or Beñat. However, Vicente is a special case that is being treated differently than the other players.

El Mago, as his teammates call him, has that bit magic that can create chances or score a goal out of nothing. Vicente offers qualities that no one else in the team does and could be the catalyst for improving Athletic’s attack which has been sorely lacking. There’s never been any doubts about Vicente’s talent, but the only concern is whether or not he’s ready for Primera football.

Ready or not, Vicente’s time may have arrived. According to a report from Javier Beltrán of AS, Garitano is not considering sending Vicente out on loan again and is determined to find a place for the 22-year-old in the team. Still, it will be up to Vicente to prove himself this summer and earn a role, but the manager has every intention to keep Vicente in the squad for the upcoming season.

Vicente finished his Mirandés loan with 5 goals and 7 assists (CDM)

In his opinion, Vicente believes that he’s ready. “I see myself in the first team next season,” he told Pako Ruiz during an interview with DEIA back in April. “This loan has helped me mature and see football from a different perspective. Mirandés has given me a lot and helped me grow. When I return to Lezama I’m going to fight to earn a place. Gaizka knows me perfectly and knows what I can give, but I want to show how I’ve grown as a footballer.”

Athletic need a spark in attack. The team has struggled to score goals for a few years now and Vicente is viewed as the type of player who can make a real difference on the field. Iñigo Vicente dazzled last season with Mirandés, scoring 5 goals and proving 7 assists, and the club plans to reward him with first team football if he shows that he’s up for it during the preseason.

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