Inaki Williams Deserves A Bigger Spotlight
Background Photo By: Euskal Herria, CC By-SA 4.0
On Sunday, the unlikeliest player created a unique record in La Liga. Inaki Williams made his 100th consecutive appearance for Athletic Bilbao, the first outfield player to do so since Deportivo La Coruna’s Fran in 1993. So why not light up San Mames as means for celebration?
He stole the show in a blistering performance against heavyweights Sevilla, stealing the headlines for his brilliant brace which moved The Lions out of the relegation zone. The forward rocketed from his own area to run 70 yards ahead, leaving defenders to dust before completing an amazing goal. Before that, he had scored his first goal at San Mames in over two years. The prodigy had returned.
Life with the Basque hasn’t always been a fairy-tale for the Bilbao-native. His parents were refugees from the Ghanaian civil war in Ghana, met in a refugee camp, before escaping to Bilbao by arranging some low-ranking work. Inaki, roughly translating to Ignacio, is the generic name for Bilbao's African citizens. However, the city recognised it had someone special from early in his youth career.
It’s the love from the city which keeps him staunchly devoted to the cause. Before joining Bilbao, Inaki played football in Pamplona, often working as a referee on the side for extra income. Since his professional debut for the Lions, he’s become a utility attacker, able to operate in either wing, attacking midfield or as a striker.
While he's consistent in his loyalty to the Red-Whites, the same cannot be said for his output. Williams’ averaged around six goals for the past three seasons. Assists come rarely too. Despite being such a tricky individual, his ability in the final third needs honing. He struggles to create but the supporters stick with their own.
Inaki repaid their faith with a stunning outing against Sevilla. Surely it attracted attention elsewhere too. Several bigger clubs crave his talent. It’s not surprising Athletic insured their asset by placing an €80 million release clause on him when he signed an eight-year contract last year.
Even so, his name is making the rounds everywhere. He may or may not have regrets over tying himself to the club for so long but until he shows consistency, Bilbao's price tag will scare off suitors. He’s on course for his best season ever with Athletic, having already scored seven goals in 19 games, one less than his best full season but the winger must be even more ruthless in the final third.
Some might argue not moving to a bigger side keeps him from reaching his potential. Bilbao’s topsy-turvy story in La Liga is having an adverse effect. To escape his shell, he needs a bigger club.
Manchester United and Arsenal can both use a right winger. His ability on the right adds width to United's attack, with Anthony Martial on the left, Marcus Rashford in the middle and Paul Pogba supporting from behind.
The free-flowing football at the Emirates should boost his goal total, too, but if he wishes to stay in Spain, Real Madrid's youth movement might suit. Since Cristiano Ronaldo's departure, they've lacked bite on the wing.
Multiple options are laid in front of him. It’s now Inaki Williams’ decision to think with his heart or his brain. Leaving home is never easy. Often, it's the only way to find yourself.