Tuesday, 26 March 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

A year ago, he was the buzz of the European footballing scene as Athletic Bilbao reached the Europa League final and also went to the Copa Del Rey final. They lost both, but they went out with a fine reputation for some superb high octane football under Marcelo Bielsa with Muniain, the 19 year old winger-cum-forward, being one of the brightest lights at the San Mames and an extremely promising young Basque talent.

Is he still not a buzz?

Well, some of the hype has admittedly faded away. Bilbao sort of imploded in the summer, Bielsa went nuts, Fernando Llorente was marginalised after a training ground dispute and the club's midfield force Javi Martinez left for Bayern Munich in bizarre circumstances. Now, after a dull year, they sit 14th and Muniain's form has suffered along with Bilbao's, playing 19 games and registering just 1 goal and 1 assist.

Any reason why?

It maybe because he, at the tender age of just 20, played 59 times for Bilbao last season, fitting in with Bielsa's high intensity pressure football, before heading to the Olympics with Spain where he played in all 3 games. The youngster is knackered, in a 2-0 defeat against Rayo Vallecano he was ineffective, being substituted after he cut a frustrated figure. Plus, he has been moved from his familiar position of left-sided wing-wizard to an alien central-playmaker, possibly becoming a victim to unfamiliarity. He has created just 24 chances so far this season, a great indication of how far his attacking influence has declined.

Form is temporary, class is permanent though?

It may be a cliche that crawls under my skin and causes a nasty rash on my arm that I constantly itch and itch until it gets worse and I have to get it checked out by a doctor, but yes, that is true. Muniain still boasts a passing percentage of 81.4% and he wouldn't have lost the close control and skill that allows him to take on defenders and coast away from them with break-neck speed. His technical ability still remains and he is only 20, he just needs something, perhaps a move away from madness de la Bielsa, to arrest his slump.

Is anybody interested in him?

The usual popular lines of Manchester United (£32 million, "new Ronaldo", a ridiculous story) and Liverpool have been used, whilst Barcelona and Real Madrid have also been linked via the Spanish press. Though, the word on the street is that Pep Guardiola, a huge fan of the Spanish under-21 winger during his time at Barcelona, could attempt to bring him to Bayern Munich when he takes over the Germans in the summer.

Whatever happens, you have to hope Muniain rediscovers the form that made him such a special player last season. Until he does, we will remind you of what he can do. Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy.


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