Going into the preseason Asier Villalibre knew that it would be extremely difficult to secure a place in the Athletic first team. With Aritz Aduriz and Iñaki Williams sitting in front, as well as Sabin Merino who can deputize in the role, it became clear that the 19-year-old needed to leave on loan in order to play regular minutes. Manager Kuko Ziganda even admitted that the striker was likely to leave this year and over the past few weeks several Segunda clubs have enquired about Villalibre, with one standing out.
According to a report from Javi Beltran of AS, Asier Villalibre will join Real Valladolid on loan for the 2017-2018 season where he will compete to be the starting striker and try to help the club compete for promotion back to the Primera.
Villalibre is a striker with a ton of potential, but he also carries an enormous expectation. With Aritz Aduriz not getting any younger, Villalibre is being viewed as a possible replacement at the San Mamés. Right now the 19-year-old is still growing and developing and the most important thing is for him to play regular minutes. That wasn’t going to happen at Athletic this year, but joining Real Valladolid will certainly give him the chance to play every single week and start making his case for the first team.
Another interesting situation to keep an eye on is that of Kike Sola. The 31-year-old has been in direct competition with Villalibre this summer and still does not know if he will have a place in Ziganda’s squad. The former Osasuna striker is in the last year of his contract with Athletic so it is now or never. He doesn’t project to feature much for the Lions and if he does leave the club it will likely be for good. Sola has said that he wants to prove himself and earn a role at the San Mamés, but the situation will ultimately come down to Ziganda, who also handed him his first team debut at Osasuna.