El Centrocampista

THE BASQUE CENTURION – La Liga protégé reaches his latest milestone

Last Sunday’s fixture between Getafe and Athletic Bilbao may not have been categorized in the ‘must-watch’ section for many fans of La Liga, either before or after the 0-0 draw was played out at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez in Madrid.

However, it was notable for one thing – at the age of just 19 years and 20 days, Iker Muniain made his 100th senior appearance for his beloved Athletic Bilbao.

Although the Basque prodigy was unable to mark his latest significant achievement with a dream goal, he had provided his captain Andoni Iraola with the best chance of the first half, sending him clear with an excellent through-ball, before being substituted in the 83rd minute of the match. No fairytale ending this time, but with time on his side, the young forward will surely add to what is already a fairly comprehensive list of records broken.

Somewhat ironically, Muniain made his first team debut against Swiss outfit Young Boys in a Europa League qualifier aged just 16 years seven months and 11 days young, when appearing as a 59th minute substitute – in the process becoming Athletic Club’s youngest ever player to represent the famous club.

Was he fazed? If he was it didn’t show.

His first involvement saw him skip around two challenges before finding a team-mate wearing the famous red and white stripes. The year was 2009 and his touch, control and low centre of gravity would go on to signify his style for the next 3 seasons, marking him out from the crowd.

Athletic lost that game 0-1 but a week later Muniain scored in a 2-1 win, thus becoming their youngest ever goalscorer in a competitive match aged 16 years seven months and 18 days young. One week, two club records broken. A new Spanish star was born (as if they needed another!)

It took the youngster a few more weeks before breaking another club record – when he appeared (and indeed started) his first La Liga match; a 1-0 home win to Espanyol, becoming Athletic’s youngest ever player to appear in the domestic league. He was in the big league now, so promptly set about breaking yet another record.

When he netted during the La Liga match against Real Valladolid in October 2009 aged at 16 years and 289 days, he became the youngest ever goalscorer in the history of Spain’s top-flight.

At this point, Muniain hadn’t even signed professional terms with Athletic – something which was dealt with in the December of that year, when he put pen to paper on a six year deal, running until 2015.

His continued rise and transformation from impact-winger to first-team regular took place as expected with old boss Joaquin Caparros’ guidance, who can take credit for breaking Muniain into the first-team and allowing him the chance to play without the weight of expectancy on his young shoulders.

However Athletic are a club with a proud tradition and outstanding development policy, whose lifeblood is their youth – and the real credit lies with the famous Lezama Academy, from which Muniain is yet another graduate of.

Now employed with the slight adjustment of playing a little deeper and in a more central area under the eccentric Marcelo Bielsa, this has allowed for more freedom and involvement, bringing Muniain’s playmaking skills to the fore.

As he continues to impress, the likes of Barcelona, Liverpool and Arsenal have made their interests known. But with youth on his side, Athletic will hope that their record-breaking youngster will stick around for another century of games, at least.


‘If you want to read more from myself including news, thoughts and views you can follow me on Twitter @fantasista1077 or visit my blog at www.footballmundial.co.uk thanks!’

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