Mikel Oyarzabal has been one of the brightest talents in Spanish football over the past couple of years. The Real Sociedad forward, despite only being 22, is one of the leaders for La Real, and his outstanding performances for the Basque club haven’t gone unnoticed by the world’s top clubs including Manchester City and Barcelona.
Real Sociedad know how good Oyarzabal is and have successfully shrugged off many suitors in past years, but made a definitive move when they got him to sign a contract extension with a €70m buyout clause last summer, a move that was made after their Basque rivals, Athletic Bilbao, attempted to poach him for the second time, having failed once before in the 2016/17 season. Oyarzabal, for his part, has claimed that he wants to continue to grow with La Real in a statement made via the club’s official website last year.
Oyarzabal is an explosive left-winger whose versatility in attack is exactly what the big clubs look out for, as he is capable of playing on either wing or down the middle as a centre forward. He takes a lot of shots and his striking ability is fantastic as he is as accurate as they come and generates a lot of power with his shots. When playing from the left of the attack, he likes to drop into the centre of midfield to pick the ball up. He is comfortable enough doing anything on the pitch, as long as he can get the ball at his feet.
Oyarzabal’s biggest weakness, however, is his lack of pace. He isn’t reliable in counter-attacks and cannot beat a defender in an out-and-out race on the wing. He has great acceleration but cannot keep it up, and fans, as well as coaches, have come to understand this side to his play, else he wouldn’t be highly coveted. What he lacks in pace though, he makes up for in footballing intelligence. In an out-and-out race on the wing, Oyarzabal’s technicality helps him make the most of his quick bursts of acceleration to make the right decision before the defender has a chance to catch up to him. He always knows when and where to run and when to pass – as explained by Total Football Analysis.
Real Sociedad are a stereotypical Spanish side who champion technical adeptness above all other football attributes. However, they have found it hard adapting to the modern game and as a result, found themselves stuck in a battle for mid-table spots season after season. They have managed to successfully establish themselves as a mid-table team and, luckily for a club of their stature, are no strangers to European football.
They don’t compare to many clubs in the world when it comes to resources (currently rank fifth in Spain) and have one of the best academies in the country (ranked eighth in the list of most productive academies in European football). However, their lack of bite has seen them lose some bright sparks in the past including Antoine Griezmann and Xabi Alonso.
In May 2016, aged only 19, he got his first international call up to the Spain squad and has earned four caps since then, and I opine that this is largely due to the club he plays for and not his talent. Now at 22, he is always on the radar of the national team scouts and if he happens to seal a move away from La Real soon enough, might get more opportunities to represent his country.
Oyarzabal is improving every game and soon, like many who have followed his career thus far, he’ll realise that he is too good for La Real.