Winger | Real Sociedad | Spain
After receiving a significant windfall in the shape of £57m for Aymeric Laporte from Premier League champions Manchester City in January, Athletic Bilbao looked to splash some of that cash in the summer. Mikel Oyarzabal was high on their list.
Bilbao’s recruitment policies notwithstanding, as a versatile, pacey winger with an eye for goal the Real Sociedad man is not on the radar of bigger teams in bigger cities just because of his Basque roots. After rejecting their advances, he’ll hit the crosshairs of another big European name in the next few seasons - you can be sure of that.
An ever present in 2016/17, he played in 35 league games last year meaning even at the tender age of 21 this is an experienced professional footballer.
2018 has been…
… Another year of progression.
La Real are a mid-table club with potential. Alongside players like Adnan Januzaj and Asier Illarramendi, Oyarzabal is part of a group of players who might well feel they should be challenging for Europe rather than settling for mid-table obscurity and the safety of a buffer zone to keep them from the relegation places.
But after having burst onto the scene a few years ago and won his first and only Spain cap in 2016 when he was just 19 years of age, it’s tempting to wonder whether - just like his club side - he shouldn’t be doing slightly better than he currently is.
A dangerous familiarity with comfort zones is a serious pitfall for all young talent.
You don’t want to rush things and push for a move at the wrong time - especially when you’re guaranteed a starting place where you are and the chance to get more minutes of top class football under your belt.
But you also don’t want to get stale.
Oyarzabal is a Basque boy, born in Eibar and having represented Sociedad for the guts of a decade, it’s not necessarily clear that he has any desire to leave. But to fulfil the potential he so clearly has, you get the feeling that has to be the next step.