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La Liga

Inaki Williams: La Liga’s Next Burgeoning Star

Inaki Williams Athletic Bilbao
Inaki Williams (R) of Athletic Club in action agaist Fabricio (L) of FK Partizan during the UEFA Europa League match between FK Partizan v Athletic Club at Stadium FK Partizan on October 22, 2015 in Belgrade, Serbia.

When looking at Athletic Bilbao’s team sheet, it would be quite common to see last names of Exetia, Iturraspe, Munain, and Balenziaga, considering they are not only Spanish, but names of Spanish families living in the Basque region of Spain.  Athletic Bilbao have a policy of recruiting players who were born in Basque Country, or have Basque ancestry, making their recruiting methods, exclusive.

Seeing the name Williams on a predominately Basque team sheet would bring intrigue to anyone who takes a glance at it, but it’s the last name of La Liga’s next burgeoning talent.

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Inaki Williams was born in Bilbao, Spain, ensuring his qualification to join Los Leones, but how he got there was quite the story.

Williams’ parents were refugees from Africa, his mom, Liberian, and his dad, Ghanaian. His parents fled Africa in the early 1990’s from civil war and other violence and immigrated to the Basque Country.

While growing up, his Parents struggled financially to make ends meet, which ultimately forced his Dad to move to London to find a better paying job to support his family.

So essentially, football was all that he had during the tribulations he was enduring.

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Williams joined CD Papaloma’s youth set-up in 2009 before making the switch to Bilbao’s legendary Lezama set-up in 2012 at the age of 16. Also, he made his senior debut for their 3rd division team in the same year.

After scoring 31 goals in as many appearances for their 3rd and 2nd division teams, this prompted a call-up to the senior squad.

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Williams made his first-team debut in December 2014, replacing Aritz Aduriz due to injury, in a 1-0 loss to Cordoba.

He made history for the Club on February 2015 against Torino in the Europa League. He became the first African player to score in the club’s 117-year history in a 2-2 draw against the Serie A side.

He also scored the only goal for Bilbao in their loss to Barcelona in the 2015 Copa Del Rey final. But was a part of the squad when they beat the Blaugrana in the Spanish Super Cup in the summertime.

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In 19 appearances for the first team, he scored 3 goals in all competitions, and cemented himself as a permanent figure in the first team.

He picked things up where he left off from last season. He has made 13 starts for Los Leones in La Liga this season, and making one appearance off the bench.

Williams has been on a tear this season, becoming the youngest player in Europe to reach the ten goal mark in all competitions, one being a wonder strike against Catalunian side Espanyol earlier in the season. He recently help Bilbao through to the quarterfinals of the Copa De Rey scoring a goal in a 1-0 victory against Villareal.

Williams has all of the qualities of a top, young forward. He’s quick, powerful, skillful, and has an eye for goal. He has recently been compared to Italian striker Mario Balotelli, minus the attitude, according to The National.

Williams’s agent Felix Tainta, credits his maturity due to his upbringing as a kid in Spain:

“He has seen a lot of people around him suffer and, although that’s not good, in the long term it helped him mature,”.

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His play this season has caught the eye of European clubs, with Tottenham Hotspur reportedly interested in acquiring the services of the Spanish U-21 forward.

As Ander Herrera (Manchester United) and Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich) before him, Bilbao don’t sell cheap. They have no reason to sell, setting high buyout clauses on their players’ contracts.

Although he doesn’t have a genuine Basque surname, he’s certainly become one of Bilbao’s stars of the season, and he’s certainly become one of the top young talents in La Liga.

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