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Iker Muniain of Athletic Bilbao and Spain

Iker Muniain - only 19 and already playing third full season as a starter. Picture taken from Goal.com

Iker Muniain is the jewel of Athletic Bilbao. Despite being just 19 years old he has been starting for the club since 2009, making the current season his third as a vital part of the team.

Muniain’s talent has many admirers, but the boy from Osasuna hasn’t rushed away from the Athletic Bilbao and probably will not do so in very close future, even if it would be fair to say no club in the world would say “no” if you asked them “would you take Muniain?”.

The diminutive forward could potentially cover any role in the front three as well as the position of an attacking midfielder. He’s yet another one of Spain’s technically superb talents who also has a really good mentality.

Report on Iker Muniain

Personal Information (according to transfermarkt.co.uk):

Name: Iker Muniain Goñi
Date of Birth: 19.12.1992 (age 19)
Nationality: Spanish
Height: 169 cm
Current Club: Athletic Bilbao (contracted until 30.06.2015)
National Team: Played in Spanish senior, U21, U20, U19 and U17 teams

Playing Information:

Main Position: Left Forward
Preferred Foot: Right

Statistics For Last 3 Seasons (according to transfermarkt.co.uk):

2011/2012: Athletic Bilbao / Spain / Spain U21 – 49 games, 9 goals, 8 assists, 10 yellow cards, 3940 minutes played
2010/2011: Athletic Bilbao / Spain U21 / Spain U19 – 50 games, 5 goals, 3 assists, 7 yellow cards, 3288 minutes played
2009/2010: Athletic Bilbao / Spain U17 – 41 games, 6 goals, 3 assists, 3 yellow cards, 1680 minutes played

Games Watched To Make The Report:

1. Athletic Bilbao – Real Sociedad 2:0 (Liga BBVA, 04.03.2012)
2. Manchester United – Athletic Bilbao 2:3 (Europa League, 08.03.2012)
3. Osasuna – Athletic Bilbao 2:1 (Liga BBVA, 11.03.2012)

Key Individual Match Statistics (WhoScored.com):

1. 26 passes (81% success rate); 1 long ball (accurate: 1); 2 crosses (accurate: 0); 1 through ball (accurate: 1); 1 shot taken (accurate: 0); 2 successful dribbles; fouled 4 times; 4 tackles; 2 interceptions; 0 fouls
2. No detailed statistics
3. 19 passes (79% success rate); 0 long balls; 0 crosses; 2 through balls (accurate: 1); 2 shots taken (accurate: 1); 0 successful dribbles; fouled 1 time; 1 tackle; 0 interceptions; 4 fouls

Picture taken from Footballfancast.com

Analysis of Muniain’s Performances:

Iker was one of the main clogs in the Athletic Bilbao attack in all those games I saw and he was a constant menace to all the defenders marking him.

He showed great technical skills, awareness, commitment and determination, but obviously he is far from the finished article and could still struggle in a different environment, as his low-key performance against his home-town club Osasuna showed.

Overall he scored one goal in those games, it came against Manchester United. He used his pace to burst into box as United’s Rafael thought he had all the time in the world to get to a rebound from a David de Gea save. The finish itself was nothing difficult or precise, Muniain simply smashed the rolling ball under the crossbar.

Tactically he showed a tendancy to drift inside as the full-back came up from his side (left).

Leaves defenders biting dust

Muniain’s tiny size is a blessing to him, it allows him to be incredibly hard to mark as he has a low centre of balance, he is light and can accelerate as well as change direction at speeds which are unreachable for defenders.

His running style is very intense and he takes a lot of tiny steps when sprinting. I don’t remember him being outsprinted once, even against Ashley Young he managed to be a worthy competitor. Running at high speeds obviously requires him to have a good ball control and that is something which he has developed into near perfection over the years.

One of the most remarkable things about him is that he requires almost no room to turn around, he could turn 180 degrees with a blink of the eye while staying in the same place and his brilliant touch would make sure that the ball stays perfectly in front of him.

He doesn’t rely only on his speed and touch to be a threat – hard work also plays its part. He has very good stamina plus great amounts of grit and determination. He was looking to get at the end of rebounds and get behind the opponent line. He also had no problems getting back to near his penalty area and then back up again without taking a rest for even a second.

Although… tactically, for example blocking opponent passing paths, he could do better and potentially preserve some energy.

This stamina is clear when you see the amount of games he has played already this season (over 50). You’d think he feels a bit tired, but that is not the case.

He did show tiny signs of tiring in later stages of league games however as in the later minutes he lost a yard of pace and that allowed defenders to get more physical with him and then things become quite difficult for Muniain. But it is hard to demand a player to be at his sharpest for full 90 minutes of the match.

This is a pseudo-problem if he improves technically and tactically.

Could he be forced to make mistakes?

I was impressed with the quick thinking and vision of Muniain as he rarely lost the ball and always had an eye on what was happening on the pitch. He doesn’t do “panic passes” to no-where in hope that it finds a team mate. He rarely seems to get himself into such situations, he knows what to do before he gets the ball.

He tries tricky things like dummies, chips, backheels, outside of the foot passes and some difficult to execute through balls but pretty much all of the times, when he made a decision in favor of the audacious, it was a right one to make and showed his good vision rather than a need to show of his skills.

To finish the analysis part on a usual note of criticism, I’d have to start off with his end product which is maybe not as top quality as the other parts of his game. I think he could score more, against Manchester United he had many chances and although you could say David De Gea made some great saves, I’d say that the very best of the world wouldn’t have given De Gea a chance to save. Muniain needs to be more calm with his finishes.

But that is not the biggest issue. I wonder if La Liga managers have noticed that Muniain only dribbles with his right foot. I saw very minimal amount of touches with left foot – only one I actually remember was a blocked cross.

He always keeps the ball on his right foot and this could make him very inefficient against an intelligent defender who knows how to close the angle for him to cut inside from the left flank. Things could become even more difficult should some teams decide to double him up.

He wouldn’t be the last very good player who excessively uses only one foot, but it still makes him vulnerable and slightly easier to force into errors.

What level do I think he is:

I think he is good enough to go with Spain to the European Championship. I guess the best player to compare him to at this moment is Dortmund’s forward Mario Götze. I don’t see very much difference in terms of quality, although I’d lean towards choosing Götze for being more of a finished product.

Muniain would be an asset for any club. A starter for the very best teams? Not sure yet, because the game against Osasuna seemed to hint that he could turn to be less efficient against teams that give away little space.

What level could he reach:

He is definitely one of the better youngsters in the world of football at the moment and has potential to become one of the best in the world.

Quality of the superhuman Leo Messi might be too much to hope for, but a notch below, definitely.

If I had to pay 10 million euros rating: 10/10

I think what I said before is sufficient for this rating so I don’t need to repeat myself. He is already playing above 10 million euro player level and will most probably grow to become worth a lot more. Besides, as young player, he wouldn’t command a huge wage at this moment and he could offer a lot of years.

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Posted by on March 16, 2012 in Big Reports

 

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