At the ripe old age of 36 Aritz Aduriz continues to defy the odds. The Athletic striker has been one of the most feared goal-scorers in Europe, netting 126 times since returning to the San Mamés back in 2012. Even though he continues going strong as he nears his 37th birthday, there has been constant worry about what the future will hold when Aduriz eventually decides to hang up his boots. Players like Iñaki Williams and Sabin Merino has been touted as possible successors, while young stars such as Asier Villalibre and Iñigo Vicente are also viewed with optimism. However, there may be a newcomer to the discussion in Gorka Guruzeta.
Guruzeta join Athletic three years ago when he left Antiguoko to sign with CD Basconia. In his first season he scored a mere six goals, but raised that mark to ten the following year. Afterwards, he was promoted to Bilbao Athletic where he scored seven goals last season, second only to Asier Villalibre. Over the last year Guruzeta has taken a major step forward in his development. The 20-year-old is playing with more confidence, consistency, and is really starting to make a name for himself with the reserve team. In three games this season he has already scored three goals and is constantly the most dangerous player on the pitch.
Like most strikers coming through Lezama, Guruzeta can play anywhere across the attacking line. While center-forward is certainly his strongest position, he has played on the left wing in the last two games and has been just as dangerous. His versatility gives him another edge that could see him make a push for the first team, but that remains to be seem. Still, it is his strengths and style of play that make the 20-year-old such an interesting product.
Most young strikers thrive on pace, quickness, and power. Guruzeta does have all of these traits, but they aren’t the focal point of his attacking style. Instead, the striker is more known for his positioning and aerial ability, much like Aduriz. Standing at six feet two inches, Guruzeta is a force inside the box. He does a great job of getting into position to receive crosses and has proven to be an accurate and powerful header of the ball. Couple that with his knack for being in the right place at the right time and the young striker has plenty of strengths that could translate to success in a higher level of competition.
But Guruzeta isn’t just focused on scoring goals for himself. He has shown a vast improvement in his hold up play over the last year and has become more consistent in his ability to be involved in attacks as a whole instead of just the end product. Unlike many players his age, Guruzeta also plays with an aggression that is hard to match. He knows how to use his strong frame and isn’t afraid to get dirty and contribute defensively. That ferocity has been on display a lot over the last few months and is one of the reasons why he has been able to take that next important step in his development as a footballer.
For Guruzeta the talent has always been there, but what held him back was consistency. For now, that seems to be a thing of the past and the 20-year-old is playing his best football since joining Athletic. Now one of the focal points in Bilbao Athletic’s attack, it will be interesting to see how he continues to develop and whether or not he can keep his tremendous form going over the course of the entire season. Guruzeta is still very raw and has a long way to go before he is ready to make the jump to the next level, but he has been showing signs that suggest that day may be much closer than previously thought. As always, Athletic will be careful and cautious with the young striker, but he is certainly a player to keep a close eye on this season.