With financial problems hitting what seems like almost every Spanish top flight club – except of course, the top two – La Liga has been losing more and more talented players to foreign leagues due to their clubs having to sell them on the cheap to fix debt. Therefore, it has been a welcome change to see a player of Benat Etxebarria’s ability stay in Spain.
He signed for Athletic Bilbao on June 26th on a 5 year contract from Real Betis for roughly €8 million. You may be thinking £8 million is fairly low for a player with Benat’s quality, but that is the case because Benat’s contract is up in the summer of 2014.
Furthermore, Betis were reasonably happy for Benat to depart as they have made a healthy profit on the player and he gave the club 4 years of great service.
You may be thinking – is Bilbao really a step up from Betis, who after all, did make the Europa League having had a brilliant season? Well, the reason Benat chose Bilbao is because that is the club where he started his career and it has been known for a while that Benat had the intention to return ‘home’ and that this transfer would happen.
I believe Benat will fit into Bilbao’s midfield perfectly. Their pass and move style will suit him well and he will be more than happy to help out the team and press the opposition.
Technically, Benat is simply superb. He has a deft touch, reads the game well, has superb vision as well as a great passing range and has very good close control.
One thing he will miss from Betis, though, is his ‘partner in crime’ – Jose Canas (who has joined Swansea). The pair of them had a strong understanding at the heart of Betis’ midfield. Canas would do the ‘dirty work’ if you like – protect the defence, work hard off the ball and win back possession, while Benat would dictate, set the tempo of Betis’ passing and wait for an opportunity to cut through the opposition defence.
All in all, I believe this transfer will be a huge success. Bilbao are getting a player who is on the verges of arguably the greatest national team of all time, and Benat gets a move to a club where he will feel right at home, fit in with the team’s style and be loved and adored by the fans.