Gaizka Garitano Tasked With Trimming The Squad During Preseason
The calendar has flipped to August and in just 12 days the Athletic first team will report to Lezama to begin preseason training. Gaizka Garitano will have a total of 33 players at his disposal and will will be tasked with trimming the squad down to his ideal 23 players before the start of the season. As always, competition will be fierce.
Athletic have already made one move to lighten the template. Hodei Oleaga was recently released from his contract following a loan spell with Melilla. The same could happen with Cristian Ganea who isn’t a part of the club’s plans moving forward. For the rest of the departures, loan moves are currently on hold while the Segunda playoffs are in limbo.
Iago Herrerín’s future is in question as well. The goalkeeper has requested to leave the club this summer and Galatasaray are said to be in talks with Athletic, though Sporting Director Rafa Alkorta recently explained that Herrerín will only be allowed to leave if there’s a convincing offer. Jokin Ezkieta will serve as the backup to Unai Simón next season, but would instead be sent out on loan if Herrerín were to stay at San Mamés for the final year of his contract.
For the players returning from loans, Peru Nolaskoain and Iñigo Vicente will compete for places in the first team. Neither are guaranteed a spot but will be given every opportunity to convince the manager. Meanwhile, Andoni López will once again spend the upcoming season on loan.
Five players from Bilbao Athletic have been called up to spend the preseason with the first team. Unai Vencedor is the most likely to earn a spot in the side, although not assured, while Dani Vivian’s future depends on whether or not Unai Núñez leaves the club. If Núñez were to stay then the plan would be to send Vivian on loan to a club in the Segunda. At this point it’s unlikely that Núñez will be departing this summer, per Javier Beltrán of AS who reports that there’s been no contact with other clubs in quite some time.
Despite having just signed a new contract, Jon Morcillo will find it difficult to have minutes and is likely to leave on loan along with Gorka Guruzeta. Jesús Areso will also spend the season away as he needs consistent playing time and currently has Ander Capa and Óscar De Marcos standing in his way at the first team. Oier Zarraga will return to Bilbao Athletic for the start of the season where he will be one of the key players for Joseba Etxeberria.
As for the players currently in the squad, reports suggest that Gaizka Larrazabal will also be sent out on loan to continue developing with consistent minutes. The 22-year-old only has one year left on his contract and would likely sign a renewal before leaving. On another note, Óscar de Marcos, Mikel Balenziaga, and Mikel Vesga are all entering the final year of their contracts as well. The trio will have to earn extensions with their performances.
Ibai Gómez, Kenan Kodro, and Iñigo Lekue are indeed part of Garitano’s plans for the upcoming season. The Mister is hoping to make Gómez a more important part of the team, while Kodro and Lekue are aware of their limited roles. Oihan Sancet’s place in the group is set with the 20-year-old poised to challenge for a place in the starting lineup.
In total, Garitano will need to cut approximately 10 players to trim the squad down to the desired 23 that he has in mind. With the plans for Ganea, Andoni López, Morcillo, Areso, Zarraga, Larrazabal, Guruzeta as well as dropping one goalkeeper and center-back, the Mister looks to already have a blueprint. However, when the squad takes the field in less than two weeks several players will be determined to change the manager’s mind.