The next big things and the players to look for
Athletic Bilbao striker Iker Muniain isn't being labelled the Basque Wayne Rooney because he resembles the 'unique looking' Manchester United star wearing a natty French undergarment, you'll probably be pleased to hear.
No, the comparisons are being drawn thanks to both the Pamplona-born starlet's speedy ascent to the upper echelons of Spanish football - a rise which has seen him set records as both Athletic's youngest ever player in a competitive match, and youngest ever goalscorer - and his bullish, never-say-die approach to the game.
It's said that the 17-year-old is already being monitored by scouts from several of Europe's top sides, including Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and Manchester City.
There would certainly be no shortage of takers should Munian decide to leave Estadio San Mamés. Although with his club side already valuing him at £30 million, any potential transfer won’t come cheap.
FourFourTwo contributor and La Liga Loca blogger Tim Stannard gives us the skinny on the promising Basque hot shot…
He looks more like Torres than Rooney, to be fair...
Name Iker Muniain Age 17Position StrikerNationality Spanish Club Athletic BilbaoGames 23 Goals 5
It is deliciously ironic that Iker Muniain scored his first official goal for Athletic Bilbao against the Swiss side, Young Boys, in September’s Europa League clash. After all, the forward was just sixteen when he struck to put the Basque club through to the group stages of the competition.
Despite missing chunks of the current campaign on duty with Spain’s youth ranks and through injury, Muniain has shown enough Primera potential to win a contract with Athletic until 2015.
For a club that restricts itself to using locally born players and can ill-afford to chop and change in the transfer market, it was some achievement. It was also a way for the Bilbao side to see off talent-sensing sharks from Europe’s bigger beasts that had begun to circle San Mamés.
"Unhand me, evil-doers!"
Muniain draws most comparisons with Manchester United and England forward Wayne Rooney due to his bullish bellicosity partnered with his attacking instincts.
The striker, who turned seventeen in December, is a fearless footballer and proved so by scoring his first goal in La Liga against the notoriously dirty defence of Valencia. In the following game, Muniain demonstrated that he was equally adept at providing as finishing, with two assists in an away win against Zaragoza.
It was a peerless performance that had his manager, Joaquin Caparros, purring that his young striker had a “built-in GPS and eight gears”. The early indications from a footballer sports daily AS call “the future star of Spanish football” are that none of these gears are for reversing.
Talentspotter ratings:Heading - 6Crossing - 7Tackling - 7Creativity - 8Passing - 8Work-rate - 8Shooting - 8Pace - 7Dribbling - 6Overall - 7
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Wayne Rooney looks like a bizarre Alien experiment gone awry or what would happen when you cross a Female Rugby Player with a Pug Fighter who was born with dainty features.
In all seriousness Wayne Rooney has no equal, perhaps the Uruguayan Cristian "Cebolla" Rodriguez has a similar game to Rooney's but Rodriguez does not have Rooney's scoring touch and plays solely on the wing. I forsee Jonathan Wilson writing a chapter on Rooney one day... if England finishes third or fourth in the World Cup with Wayne Rooney clicking on all cylinders then his legend will be cemented in my book.
Plenty of great players coming through in Spain: Pacheco, Canales etc. Gulp.
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