Following one of the best seasons in club history, Athletic Club Bilbao have been hard at work this summer preparing the squad for Champions League play. While several players have signed new deals, its newcomer Borja Viguera that could make the most noise.
Athletic recently confirmed that they had signed Viguera from Basque neighbors Alaves, paying the striker's buy-out clause of €1 million, via Inside Spanish Football. Despite his very low fee, Viguera has been demanding attention in the second division all year.
The striker from Logrono moved to Real Sociedad when he was just 16, though he was never able to make his mark on the first team. Two loan deals and a major injury later, Viguera found himself rejuvenated at Alaves.
As Viguera stated during his presentation for Athletic (H/T Inside Spanish Football), fighting to come back from a serious injury has made him more mature and focused, and it definitely shows on the pitch.
During his two seasons at Alaves, Viguera scored over 40 goals and led the second division in scoring this season with 25 strikes. He has a silky touch, an eye for the goal and is a pure finisher who is able to put the ball in the back of the net in a variety of ways.
Viguera could be the answer to Athletic's prayers, because ever since Fernando Llorente left the club, it has been clear that it's in need of a new striker. That isn't to say that Viguera is at Llorente's level, just that he can fill the scoring role left behind.
Aritz Aduriz has been spectacular since returning to his boyhood club in 2012, but the club can't ignore that he is 33 and has been struggling with groin problems for over a year now. It might be working out well for now, but Aduriz can't lead the line for much longer.
Groin problems became such an issue this season that Aduriz underwent surgery when the campaign was over. The time of passing the torch to someone else is rapidly approaching for the aging striker.
Looking through the rest of the strikers in the squad, it's quite clear that Athletic needed help.
Kike Sola may have been a promising signing from Osasuna last summer, but injuries have kept him from seeing regular minutes. Even if Sola had remained healthy, there's little to suggest that he would have the quality to lead the Athletic attack.
Gaizka Toquero was able to enjoy good minutes up front this year, but the 29-year-old has now gone two seasons without a league goal. The only striker left in the squad is 21-year-old Guillermo who just recently debuted.
Things get much better when looking at upcoming youth stars who are currently turning heads at Lezama.
Inaki Williams (19), Asier Villalibre (16) and Inigo Vicente (16) all are touted to be first-team stars, but their a long way off from making any real impact.
Clearly, Los Leones were in desperate need of a new striker. With immense talent throughout the squad, the team is missing a deadly scorer to fill out the lineup.
The club was in need of someone who could not only push Aduriz for the starting role, but someone who could also take the reigns in the future until younger stars are ready to make their mark.
When next season begins Aduriz will still be the unquestioned starter. However, Viguera will likely be handed the back-up role immediately and will be given every chance to find success in the first division.
With Athletic now competing in three different tournaments, having a player who can truly push and stand in for Aduriz is essential. The 33-year-old no longer has to carry the burden alone and there's reason to believe that Viguera could feature in the starting XI quite often this year.
It's always difficult to gauge whether or not a second-division player can be successful. Yet, Viguera fits Athletic perfectly and could even be the missing piece to the puzzle.
Viguera is known for tracking back to help on defense, something Athletic manager Ernesto Valverde loves, while also being a clinical finisher. With the talent that will be surrounding him, the 27-year-old will have a lot of chances to show why he was one of the most feared strikers in the Segunda the last two years.
A quick look at his goals from last season and it is clear that Viguera can do it all in front of goal. With the talent to clean up chances and create his own, Athletic may have just added the weapon they have been missing, and for a mere €1 million.
At 27, Viguera is in the peak of his career. He is also a very hungry player determined to show that he belongs in the first division. That kind of drive and passion could be the difference-maker in Athletic's quest for silverware next season.
Player statistics are courtesy of Transfermarkt.co.uk
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