Ismael Urzaiz Tips Asier Villalibre For Success At Athletic Club
Ismael Urzaiz knows a thing or two about scoring goals in the Athletic shirt. In 11 seasons the former striker amassed 419 appearances for the club while scoring 129 goals. Eventually, Urzaiz would be replaced by a young Fernando Llorente who was then followed by Aritz Aduriz. Today, the future of the position is in question with Aduriz having recently announced his retirement.
Raúl García seemingly stepped up to the role in the second half of the season. The 33-year-old ended the campaign with 15 goals while not being a true striker. Meanwhile, Iñaki Williams added just 6 goals of his own in what was a disappointing year for the dynamic forward. To Urzaiz, García’s season was impressive but the team needs other goal-scorers to contribute more.
“Raúl is a great professional. He can play in midfield, on the side, as a center forward and he does everything and gives everything. In the end, he’s been playing as a center forward because reference players are missing in certain positions. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t do it well, but others are needed.”
Iker Muniain added five goals of his own which Urzaiz values. “For me, Muniain had a very good season,” the former striker told Alberto García of Mundo Deportivo. “He didn’t score as many goals as he has in previous years, but it was good. Raúl has been the reference and others have to raise their level.”
When asked about which players can provide more goals next season, Urzaiz quickly tipped Asier Villalibre. The 22-year-old scored 5 goals last season despite limited playing time.
“In the minutes he’s had this year he’s scored goals. That has to give confidence to anyone. He’s young but he has the opportunity to be a reference player. That’s what you have to think about. In Lezama there are guys with a lot of quality.”
Athletic only scored 41 goals last season which ranked 13th in La Liga. Even more worrying is the fact that the Lions scored just two headers all year when crosses and set pieces have historically been a significant weapon for the Zurigorri.
“Part of the reason is not having Aritz Aduriz and the fact that San José didn’t play much,” explained Urzaiz. “Raúl García normally scores them but it’s true that he is symptomatic of the decent of something that, obviously, was habitual and normal in the performance of a team like Athletic.”
Since Gaizka Garitano took over as manager in December of 2018 Athletic have been one of the best defensive teams in all of La Liga. However, the Lions have had a hard time putting the ball into the back of the net. Athletic must score more goals moving forward to seriously challenge for a top seven finish and European qualification.