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Spain: Unai Simon, the goalkeeper who put David De Gea and Kepa Arrizabalaga on the shelf

Luis Enrique has finally found his titular goalkeeper in the person of Unai Simon, the Athletic goalkeeper.

The Basque Country is used to providing high quality goalkeepers to the Spanish selection. José Ángel Iribar, Luis Miguel Arconada, Andoni Zubizarreta and José Manuel Ochotorena, among others, to quote some historical figures of Iberian football. Even today, many brilliant Spanish goalkeepers in La Liga or internationally have been trained in Basque lands, such as Aitor Fernandez (Levante), Alex Remiro (Real Sociedad) or even Kepa Arrizabalaga (Chelsea), although the latter is going through difficult times. And what about Unai Simon, the Athletic’s porter.

For La Liga fans, the takeover of the native of Vitoria-Gasteiz is anything but a surprise. Since last season already, the 23-year-old goalkeeper has brilliantly defended the goals of Athletic, asserting himself as one of the references to his position in the championship of our neighbors to the south. “When I was little, I was inspired by Casillas and Buffon”, explained recently the main concerned, whose profile is however quite different from the two legends. Kicking mainly, an area where Luis Enrique is very demanding with his goalkeepers, while having a fairly complete panoply allowing him to shine when it is necessary to make reflex saves as well as to win in the aerial game as necessary. , well helped by its size (it exceeds the meter 90).

The perfect profile for Luis Enrique

“There are several factors that we take into account with the goalkeeper, in addition to his technique in the cages. Like non-verbal language, or the way they accept certain things in training. The goalkeepers must participate in the game and bring us fluidity. Dominate the aerial game on corners and free kicks because we are not very powerful in this area, cover the defensive line when we press in the opposing half of the field. Unai Simon, even if he has to improve, has a very high level in these areas ”, summed up Luis Enrique during the break.

We have again seen against Germany that the Basque goalkeeper is not cold in the eyes when it comes to playing ball with the foot in his area, playing to the limit, where David De Gea and Kepa are perhaps more inclined to swing far ahead. And it feels in the game, since from the start of the action, Simon allows to break a first line by skipping the pressing of the opposing attackers via a well-felt ball for his central defenders, his full-backs or even sometimes his offensive players. . Against the German team, he did not have a lot of work on his line, but against the Netherlands in a friendly and against Switzerland, we could see that he gave off much more serenity than his two competitors.

He was playing in D2 two years ago!

On the Bilbao side, we quickly forgot Kepa. But for Simon to get to this number 1 position, it took a hell of a lot of circumstances. The transfer of the first city to Chelsea, as well as the departure of Alex Remiro to Real Sociedad when he was the designated replacement for the Blues player, as well as an injury of Iago Herrerin, who was to be number 1 for the season 2018/2019, opened the doors of the first team to Simon. He had also been loaned to Elche, in the Spanish second division, in the summer of 2018 … before being recalled in disaster a few weeks later to troubleshoot. He had started the season, but lost his place when Herrerin returned.

It was during the 2019/2020 season that he seized the starting place, which he logically did not let go, offering high level performances weekend after weekend. Very quickly, observers propelled him to the rank of a serious candidate for the post of guardian of La Roja. In selection and far from the Basque cocoon, he proves them right and even seems, after only three games, indisputable, well helped by the poor form of Mancunien and Londoner, it must also be said. One less complicated file to manage for Lucho !

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