The hype and interest surrounding Iker Muniain is warranted. At Athletic Bilbao, the young forward has been on the scene for a number of years—making his debut at the age of 16. But as Muniain hopes to prepare himself for another string of eye-catching performances at this summer’s Olympics, should there be any reason for the young Spaniard to leave La Liga in the near future?
Muniain, along with the rest of the Bilbao team, gave an outstanding performance at Old Trafford in the Europa League last season. It was a performance and stage that opened up his talents to a wider audience. Yes, he’s probably Spain’s best young talent among their seemingly endless supply, but Muniain displayed the kind of ability and mentality that is needed in English football. Has was hardly fazed by the occasion and the history of the opposing team, and he looked to force his authority on the game as much as possible.
Manchester United will of course hold an interest in the player, as will a number of the other big clubs in the Premier League. But really, what can English football offer a leading product of the current greatest nation in world football? The exposure will naturally be bigger in England, but there are few doubting that Real Madrid would be leading the race should Bilbao decide to part with their forward.
Despite having a deceptively strong frame, there would be questions raised as to whether Muniain could prevent himself being thrown around in the rough and tumble of English football. He’d be guaranteed success at any of the major clubs who are likely to chase his signature, but as the question has been asked of Lionel Messi; could Muniain do it on a cold Monday night in Stoke? The truth is, he’s done it on the rain-soaked pitch of San Mames. A game that resulted in a 2-2 draw against Barcelona. He’s got the talent and mentality to succeed in difficult conditions, but his potential is better than just a comparison to the difficulties of England’s heaviest hitters.
But why would one of the best young talents in football want to be exposed to a league where Stoke are the benchmark for success? In La Liga, whether he stays at Bilbao for the foreseeable future—which is likely—or he moves to one of big two in the league, he’d be allowed to develop his natural ability, rather than adapt his game to a style that is a little more rough around the edges.
Muniain is naturally capable of playing on either flank, with a great tendency to drift inside. His aggressive style of play would certainly not be lost in English football, and he is more than capable of taking care of himself. But in England, he’d become just another one of those expensive imports.
Manchester City—who are sure to exert their power in the transfer market—would snap him up, as they have done with every other flavour of the summer. He’d run out a good season with the club, only to then be cast aside when the next hot thing pops up. At Chelsea, where would he fit in over the long-term? The club have bought ambitiously but also with a great deal of focus on players who play in the same position. Big money awaits Muniain in England, but I’d like to think he’s got a little more integrity than just chasing a weighty pay packet. Most will disagree, unfortunately.
Remaining in Spain, however, would accelerate his progression into the Spanish national team. He’s been selected for the senior squad by Vicente Del Bosque, but his youth and the excellence ahead of him meant there was little chance of a call-up to the Euro squad.
Muniain has admitted to idolising Raul Gonzalez as a youngster—something which could open up another route to the Bernabeu in the future. The likelihood, however, is that Muniain would be greatly appreciated in Spanish football—where he belongs. La Liga’s problems may be rooted to the financial disparity in the league, but Spanish football still holds a large volume of the world’s best players. The quality of football also remains a constant in the league, as well. England may have variety, but Muniain is better suited to the obvious technical aspect that Spain excels in.
Naturally, however, this is all misguided Spanish propaganda. Because, obviously, all the best players want to play in England, regardless of their nationality and preference.