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Mikel San José of Athletic Bilbao and Spain U23

22-year old Mikel San José is showing signs of becoming a good international quality defender. Picture taken from zimbio.com

Athletic Bilbao players are improving fast under the guidance of Marcelo Bielsa and amongst those getting play time in the side of Bielsa is a young centre-back named Mikel San José.

22-year old who was born in Pamplona was part of Bilbao’s academy at young age, but spent 3 years of his career in the youth and reserve teams of Liverpool before moving back to his old club.

Since 2009 he has been a starter for Bilbao and he has had a good season so far and he is attracting the interest of some top teams of Europe.

Report on Mikel San José

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

Name: Mikel San José Domínguez
Date of Birth: 30.05.1989 (age 22)
Nationality: Spanish
Height: 186 cm
Current Club: Athletic Bilbao (contracted until 30.06.2015)
National Team: Played in Spanish U23, U21 and U19 teams

Playing Information:

Position: Central defender
Preferred Foot: Right

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

2011/2012: Athletic Bilbao / Spain U23 – 29 games, 3 goals, 1 assist, 5 yellow cards, 1833 minutes played
2010/2011: Athletic Bilbao / Spain U21 – 38 games, 3 goals, 1 own goal, 10 yellow cards, 1 red card, 3230 minutes played
2009/2010: Athletic Bilbao / Spain U21 – 32 games, 3 goals, 1 own goal, 1 assist, 10 yellow cards, 2658 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. 45 passes (73% success rate); 5 long balls (accurate: 1); 1 tackle; 2 interceptions; 6 clearances (effective: 2); 1 shot blocked; 1 foul (1 yellow card); 1 shot taken (on target: 1); dispossessed 1 time
2. No detailed statistics
3. 42 passes (63% success rate); 6 long balls (accurate: 2); 3 tackles; 4 interceptions; 9 clearances (effective: 3); 0 shots blocked; 0 fouls; 1 shot taken (on target: 0); dispossessed 2 times

San José is strong in the air, but bit slow against the faster forwards.

Analysis of San José’s Performances:

San José is a player who seems to have good understanding of his shortcomings. Bielsa’s high energy tactics require a lot from his defenders and San Jose will be well prepared to play at high pace if he should go to a big team.

He was decent in the games I watched him in, but he was still a distance off the best defenders in European football. He doesn’t mess up, but he doesn’t have the ability to completely nullify players either – or to put it simply, he doesn’t do anything special.

Strong in the air, struggles on the ground

San José is a strong defender with a good physical presence in the box, I don’t remember him getting beaten even once in the air, although in fairness, there weren’t too many real challengers either. Osasuna’s two goals were from headers and San José was thereabout when Raul Garcia scored the 2:0 goal, but it was rather the mistake of another player defending against Garcia.

On the negative side, he is not the fastest of player. He can just about keep up with the faster forwards running with the ball, but sometimes he is forced to make a tiny pull or use his strength a bit excessively in order to slow down opponent. But to praise him, he does get close enough to do that, he does it in safe areas with no big recuperations and it is better that he gives away the little foul rather than let the player go.

His statistics also seem to indicate that he has gotten more intelligent with his fouling over the past years with his yellow card amount on the course for a slight decrease this season.

He doesn’t slide into tackles too often and prefers to stand tall, not rush into winning the ball. This I feel to be  useful in most situations. He was poor in the case of Manchester United’s first goal against Athletic Bilbao where he did slid into a challenge on the edge of the area and failed to get the ball away from Ryan Giggs, who passed it to Javier Hernandez, whose shot was saved, before Wayne Rooney tapped in.

When he is forced to defend one on one, he is often side-stepped or burned for pace if he doesn’t stand very far off the player. But standing far off is a problem, it allows opponent a lot of time to make a pass and at times also opens up an angle for a shot, this is something which happened against Osasuna for example, when he allowed one curling shot from the edge of the area which went just a bit wide.

His reading and positioning skills are solid for his age and with more experience, he should become even more intelligent to make up for his speed issues. He doesn’t get caught out of position and he has the awareness of what to do – for example he managed to force opponents to non-dangerous areas when defending during counter-attacks.

Comfortable on the ball

One sign of a Bielsa trained defender is that San José does try to pass the ball out of defence and doesn’t smash it forward. He is very calm on the ball.

In the latest games his passing success ratio has been quite poor, but over the course of the season it has been a bit better. Still, I could see he’s not entirely comfortable when passing and sometimes he takes poor quality efforts which tend to bobble and are not easy for a team-mate to control. His long balls and clearances are often aimless and far from precise.

Finishing with his technical assessment, his running on the ball seemed a bit awkward and uncomfortable. Once he tries to break forward the ball tends to get stuck under his feet or goes half a yard too far in front of him, forcing him to make an unprecise pass or putting the ball out.

What level do I think he is:

He is a good defender, I like him and I think he does the minimum of what you expect from a defender of a team challenging for a Champions League spot.

And when you consider he’ll only turn 23 in the end of May, then you’d have to say he could even be considered to be amongst the better young defenders in Europe.

With most top teams have aging defenders or quite erratic youngsters, he could be quite a useful addition.

What level do I think he could reach:

I imagine that he’ll improve quite rapidly and could have a real break-through season within next couple of years, depending on where he is playing.

His speed is not that big a problem because he seems to be an intelligent defender who might learn how to get around this problem by using his strength and becoming better at reading opponents.

Young defender like him needs to be in a team that can offer a calm working environment with no instant pressure. At this moment Athletic Bilbao can offer it and if they get to Champions League for next season, he should definitely look to stay there.

If I had to pay 10 million euros rating: 5/10

A good rating for a young defender. He is not a 10 million euro defender just yet, but will probably become one worth more. Could even give him a 6/10 rating, but with defenders the risk is always quite big and depends a lot on the manager I’d have in charge of the team I’m buying him into.

I think he’d fit well into Premier League for example if he was to move in from Athletic, but I see him doing well in other top leagues outside of Spain too, once the language barrier has been overcome.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 12, 2012 in Big Reports

 

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Pick 10 defenders for me to follow

ANNOUNCEMENT: I’ve extended the voting until Monday 9 PM for now. To get more votes, and I can’t get started anyway just yet. Lot of new options added too.

Usually it is easy to see who the big attacking talents are, but it is much more difficult to assess defenders because you simply don’t notice a lot of them and an average fan wouldn’t watch a team play just for a defender. Yet the question which of the young/relatively unknown defenders is actually good enough for a top team is one that bugs me and possibly a lot of others too.

However this is exactly what I am going to do as I hope to cover at least 10 defenders with 2 months with a big scouting report. Who do I cover? This is for you to pick. I have given you a pre-set poll with some options, but to nominate your own player for voting, let me know in Twitter by sending me a tweet (possible blueprint: @TanelT “player name”,”club” #FootballsNewTalent ) or make a comment here. After all I’m bound to forget a lot of players. I will add them at first opportunity.

Whether you want to get a second opinion on the player of your favorite team/national team or want to know more about the target of your club… I’ll try to provide you this knowledge.

I will try to be covering the top 10 defenders who received most votes, IF I can see them play (either live or obtaining their games). If I decide to go above 10, then the extra players will be those who interest me most personally.

Before you nominate Thiago Silva’s, Vincent Kompany’s or Gerard Pique’s, I will reject such nominations. I am not looking for world-class players. They should be relatively young, but if someone is very good/interesting but aged around 25 and relatively unknown then I will still accept him. And some top club players like Phil Jones or the recent arrival Juan in Inter can also be voted for, just no-one very old or already amongst the best in the position.

I will only add players I believe to be suitable for report to the poll.

I have separated full-back and centre-back voting.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2012 in News Articles

 

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