Athletic fans were absolutely shocked when it was announced that the club had signed Ander Capa on the last day of the transfer window. Sure, the Eibar man will not join the team until next summer, but he is still the first transfer signing in two years. Capa has been one of the best and most consistent right-backs in La Liga for the last few years, attracting interest from the likes of Barcelona, so he will immediately strengthen the Athletic squad; but just how much will his arrival in July affect the squad as a whole? Let’s take a look.
It is important to recognize that on top of being great right-back, Capa has also spent a lot of time playing as a winger. While he has proven to be solid defensively, he is more than capable of joining the attack and being dangerous when pushing up the field. In fact, he has a real knack for positioning and knowing when to venture forward and when to stay deep. His dribbling and ability to shoot from outside of the box have been an important aspect of Eibar’s attack and will be a welcome addition to Athletic’s squad. For comparisons sake, Capa is very similar to Oscar De Marcos, though one could make the argument that he is a bit stronger defensively.
Most fans don’t seem to believe that Capa will challenge for a starting role in the team, but that isn’t guaranteed. His exceptional form in La Liga gives every reason to believe that he will push De Marcos for the starting right-back role next season and it will be up to Kuko Ziganda to decide who deserves the position. Capa’s arrival will also make Iñigo Lekue an interesting player to keep an eye on. The 24-year-old has played his best football at right-back, but would presumably be sitting third in the pecking order next year. Like Capa, he can also play as a winger and may see more time in that role down the road. On the flip side, perhaps Capa will be the one that is utilized in a more offensive role when he finally moves to the San Mamés. All three are capable of playing as the right winger if Iñaki Williams becomes the center-forward in the future, so Capa’s signing could truly lead to a massive change up in the team down the road.
A quick look at the squad shows that Eneko Bóveda may be the player most affected by Capa’s arrival. So far this season he has been the third choice right-back, which would make him fourth in the depth chart next year. Add in the fact that he has Yeray, Aymeric Laporte, Xabi Etxeita, and now Unai Nuñez in front of him at center-back and it could be very difficult for Bóveda to play regular minutes. Of course, all of this could change if the 28-year-old is able to play a strong season and overtake someone like Etxeita, but for now Ziganda has shown clear signs that he prefers Etxeita.
With so much depth at right-back next season it could also see younger players like Jon Sillero or Jesus Areso have to wait to have their shot at the first team. Meanwhile, Markel Etxeberria is currently serving his second loan spell in the Segunda and would almost certainly not have a place in next year’s squad. Some fans may be worried about the club keeping focus on Lezama, but it is important to remember that Capa spent time in the academy from 2002-2005. At the end of the day, no one knows how Kuko Ziganda will utilize the 25-year-old once he arrives. He may very well be used in a more offensive role which would still allow the Lezama stars the chance to carve out a path to the first team.
While it is still way too early to have a confident idea of what Capa’s arrival will mean next year, it is an interesting discussion and something worth looking forward to. Athletic is famous for having players that can feature in more than one position, which is emphasized all throughout Lezama, and Capa definitely fits that mold. Regardless of what happens, the 25-year-old will make the Athletic squad stronger, deeper, and will bring a new dimension for Kuko Ziganda to take advantage of. Fans are very excited about the new signing and you can bet that they will be keeping a close eye on him this season.
It also wouldn’t be fair to end the discussion here without mentioning how this purchase will affect the relationship with Eibar. Despite having interest from several other clubs, Capa wanted to return to Athletic, but he also didn’t want to treat Eibar in a negative way. Instead of just waiting for his contract to end and leaving for free, Capa extended his deal for one more year so that Eibar could get something out of his departure. Athletic revealed that they paid a transfer fee of €3 million for Capa, on top of allowing him to stay with Eibar for one more season, which will keep the two Basque clubs on good professional terms moving forward.
What do you think about the addition of Ander Capa? How will it help Athletic? Which players will it hurt? Have your say in the comment section below!