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It has been a difficult start to the season for Real Sociedad and the returning Asier Illarramendi has received some criticism given he was the club’s main summer signing. However there have been signs in recent weeks that the 25 year old is re-adjusting to life back at the Anoeta and he is going to be integral to Sociedad’s plans for the rest of the season as they look to climb La Liga.
It has been a roller-coaster two years for the holding central midfielder. After breaking into the Real Sociedad first-team the local boy began to draw admirers far and wide for his composed performances in the middle of the park and excellent passing ability.
A €30 million move to Real Madrid developed in July 2013 and he was seen as the heir to the throne of Xabi Alonso, who also forged his reputation at Real Sociedad before later moving to the Bernabeu.
Struggled at the Bernabeu, despite Alonso’s departure
The departure of Alonso one year later looked set to give Illarramendi his chance to seal his place in the heart of the Real Madrid midfield for the long-term, but he struggled to do enough to keep his place in the side and Illarramendi made just 10 league starts last term with Toni Kroos and Luca Modric the preferred options in the holding central midfield roles.
His return to Real Sociedad last summer could be seen as a backwards step for a player who hasn’t quite fulfilled his potential, but it has at least given Illarramendi a more important and more regular role in a team that still possesses a fair amount of quality but has been struggling.
Real Sociedad are in 15th place and only two points above the relegation zone, while they have also already been knocked out of the Copa del Rey. The former Spain Under 21 international returned with a fair amount of pressure on his shoulders and didn’t immediately settle back into the side as easily as he would have liked with David Moyes at the helm.
More at home with the Erreala
He has looked more at home since the arrival of Eusebio though with a slightly altered playing style which is more suited to Illarramendi’s game although hasn’t produced much difference in terms of results for La Real.
He returned to the Bernabeu last week for the first time as Real Sociedad put up a good fight but were eventually beaten 3-1 by Los Blancos.
There is enough quality in the squad to suggest Sociedad can pull away from danger, but a safe mid-table finish is likely to be the best they can hope for and they need to add more attacking quality to the squad to really capitalise on Illarramendi’s passing ability.
The 25 year old returned on a six year deal so is clearly committed to the San Sebastian club and 2016 is likely to be a pivotal year for him as with regular first-team action all but guaranteed, he looks to re-invigorate a career that still has much promise.
Written by Mark Sochon
Follow Mark on Twitter @tikitakagol
Check out his brilliant blog on all things La Liga, Tiki-Taka-Gol!
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