Talent Scouting Report: Iker Muniain (Athletic Bilbao)

Over the course of this coming season, our writer Thomas Pacey will be providing us with scouting reports on some of the best and up-and-coming, young talent out there. I hope these reports will be up to your satisfaction.

Taken from WikiSpace

Name – Iker Muniain Goñi
DOB – 19 December 1992 (age 19)
Height – 5ft 7” (1.69m)
Weight – 9st 9lbs (61.23kg)
Club – Athletic Bilbao
Position – Winger / Forward 
Career Appearances (Goals) – 150 (23)

Last season Athletic Bilbao reached both the Copa del Rey and UEFA Europa League finals, however despite showing signs of promise on both occasions they eventually succumbed to deserved defeats. 

A squad consisting entirely of products of the Basque region fell at the last fence when facing two squads constructed with considerably larger geographical and financial backing (in Atletico Madrid and Barcelona). 

In addition to this, a promising league campaign faded, and Bilbao eventually finished in 10th place in La Liga. Despite no tangible measures of success (through trophies or European qualification) mature and exciting seasons from the likes of Iker Muniain are major positives projecting from an ultimately disappointing season which culminated in a series of ‘what ifs’.

Iker Muniain actually made his debut on the 30th July 2009, playing 30 minutes off the bench in a Europa League qualifying match against Young Boys. In doing so he became the club’s youngest ever player, at 16 years, 7 months and 11 days old. 

A week later, another record was broken in the return fixture when Muniain scored his first goal for the club, becoming the youngest ever player to do so. 

On October 4th 2009, Muniain found the net against Real Valladolid and in doing so became the youngest player to score in a first division match. Quickly a professional contract with Bilbao followed, as did a regular starting place on the left hand side of their attack.  

The following season, Muniain won La Liga Breakthrough Player of the Year before being an integral part of the Spanish side which won the European Under-21 Football Championship. 

Even more impressive is the fact that despite the wealth of talent Spain have at their disposure, Muniain earned a senior cap in a recent friendly match against Venezuela. With the departure of Xavi and Iniesta from the international scene closing in, could Munain be the player to take up the creative responsibilities?

Iker Muniain has been dubbed ‘The Spanish Messi’ due to his small stature, low centre of gravity, impeccable close control and blistering acceleration. These allow him to create space for himself and others as well as ease past defenders. 

Muniain reads the game extremely well and uses the ball intelligently. His pace and flair torment defences; on average he was fouled 2.6 times a game last season, the 6th most in the whole of La Liga. 

He is a player constantly on the move, picking up positions between defence and midfield where he is difficult to track. 

Although his build up is usually patient, he has the ability to pick a killer pass and can be lethal on the counter attack. His game probably doesn’t produce as many goals as it should however last season Muniain contributed 4 vital goals in 9 starts during Bilbao’s run to the Europa League Final.

Taken from Zimbio

Despite having completed his 3rd full season at such a young age, there are also no signs of overload and Muniain has managed to remain fit and injury free. In modern football young players are often put under more stress than their bodies can manage, as has been seen with the likes of Jack Wilshere.

Despite the positives, there are obvious question marks over his aerial ability. At 5ft9” Muniain doesn’t offer much threat in that department, however football is evolving and becoming increasingly possession based. 

In addition, it can be said that Muniain is highly reliant on his right foot and when faced by an intelligent defender who shows him onto his left, he can be reasonably ineffective and forced into making errors. 

Iker Muniain has all the required mental and physical attributes to have an extremely successful career in football. At 19 years of age he has broken a number of records as well as achieving an international cap in the best team in the world. 

I don’t tend to agree with ‘the next whoever’ tag, and when it comes to Messi in particular it’s unfair to compare anybody with him. 

If Muniain continues to develop in the manner he has done so the last 3 seasons and avoids injury he will no doubt become a future superstar in the world of football. I can’t help but think despite his loyalty to Bilbao; the best thing for his development may be to seek pastures new with the Madrid’s or Barcelona’s of this world.

Written by Tom Pacey
Follow me on Twitter @TomRPacey

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