Saturday, August 20, 2022

Wolves Set Their Sights On This La Liga Centre-Back: What Will He Bring To The Molineux Stadium?

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Abhinab Ghosh
A 26-year-old sports writer and an aspiring football coach who has road-tripped across the Scottish Highlands, but has never been to Wales. Sucker for cliff-hangers and catchy riffs. Known to be a grunger and not to be a stranger.

In a recent report, AS has mentioned that Wolverhampton Wanderers have set their sights on Athletic Bilbao centre-back Unai Nunez this summer. However, it is believed that Wolves could face stiff competition from West Ham United, Arsenal, Everton, AC Milan and AS Monaco in the race to secure the Spanish defender’s signature in this off-season (via AS).

Nunez’s Uneventful Season In The Basque Country

The 23-year-old did well to impress in patches during the 2019-20 La Liga campaign. However, there is no hiding from the fact that he struggled to earn regular first-team opportunities under the stewardship of Gaizka Garitano. The Spanish centre-half made 26 appearances for the Basque outfit, picking up seven yellow cards in the process. However, he could only help Bilbao secure an eighth-placed finish in the league table.

Nunez deserves a pat on the back for bailing out his teammates in defence numerous times over the past 12 months as he averaged 0.7 tackles, 1.2 interceptions and 3.5 clearances per 90 minutes in La Liga last season. The Portugalete-born talent was even tidy with his ball-distribution as evident from his pass completion rate of 82.4% in top-flight football (stats via whoscored).

The one-time Spanish international has established himself as an important squad player for Bilbao, but it remains to be seen whether he can improve as a defender and perform at a high level for both his club and country in the coming seasons.

Wolves set their sights on Athletic Bilbao centre-back Unai Nunez who is celebrating in the picture
Unai Nunez and Inigo Cordoba of Athletic Club celebrate after winning the Copa del Rey semifinal 2nd leg match between Granada CF and Athletic Club at Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes on March 05, 2020, in Granada, Spain. (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images)

What Will The Spanish Defensive Ace Bring To The Molineux Stadium?

Standing at 1.86m, Nunez has got a real presence about him that allows him to command his penalty area with authority. More often than not, the Spanish player is quick to deal with the danger by making some important clearances for his side at the back. The Bilbao centre-half is also not afraid to go to the ground so that he can retrieve the ball back for his teammates. He is far from the finished product but could serve as a decent squad player for any top club in Europe next season.

Nunez could solidify the Wolves backline even more and will also give Nuno Espirito Santo more options in defence, mostly because he prefers to play with three defenders at the back. The Spaniard will provide some healthy competition for Conor Coady, Willy Boly, Max Kilman and Romain Saiss in the race to secure a regular starting berth at the Molineux Stadium in the upcoming campaign.

However, there are some serious question marks over whether Nunez will be able to adapt to Nuno Espirito Santo’s playing style at the West Midlands club. At least he is an accurate passer of the ball, so he should have no problems when playing his way out from the back. However, the physical nature and high intensity of Premier League football could take its toll on the young defender if he decides to join Wolves before the transfer window slams shut in October.

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