Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal is only just getting started
Sometimes you have to stop and remember that Real Sociedad winger Mikel Oyarzabal is still just 22 years old. A history-maker at Real Sociedad, a goal scorer at senior level for Spain… he’s achieved so much in such a short period of time.
Oyarzabal made his LaLiga debut for La Real in October 2015 having turned the head of then-coach David Moyes with a swift rise through the youth ranks at Anoeta after joining from his hometown club Eibar in 2011. He quickly established himself as a key member of the senior squad under Eusebio Sacristan, who replaced Moyes as coach just weeks after his debut. A first LaLiga Santander goal arrived in a whopping 5-0 victory at Espanyol in early February, and he immediately scored twice more in a 3-0 against Granada the following weekend.
Oyarzabal, who has drawn praise for his remarkable physical and mental strength, has been almost ever-present in the txuri-urdin starting XI ever since. The youngster achieved a rare feat for an outfielder in starting all 38 of his side’s LaLiga matches in 2016/17 and followed that season up with two more almost ever-present campaigns with 35 league appearances in 2017/18 and 37 in 2018/19. Unsurprisingly for a player of his talents, in October 2018 Oyarzabal became the second-youngest player in his club’s history to reach 100 appearances in LaLiga Santander.
By common acclaim, the 22-year-old is the most exciting player to come through the youth ranks at Anoeta since Antoine Griezmann. He can play anywhere along the front line but is currently used most on the right flank, from where he can move inside to show off a dangerous shot, creative eye for an assist and excellent ability in the air. It wasn’t coincidence that he inherited the number 10 jersey previously worn by club captain and legend Xavi Prieto, a man who spent his whole career with the txuri-urdin, last summer.
Oyarzabal is tied to the San Sebastian side until 2024, having renewed his contract only last July. The club will be thanking their lucky stars that they have him under contract for the foreseeable future after he produced what was probably his finest season as a professional so far with 13 goals and 4 assists.
He also cemented his place in club history thanks to decisive, match-winning performances in both Basque derbies against local rivals Athletic Club, the club from along the coast in Bilbao. He showed authority and maturity by converting two penalties as La Real won 3-1 at San Mames in October and then demonstrating great awareness and skill to open the scoring as his team won 2-1 in February’s reverse fixture.
His impressive performances in LaLiga have seen Oyarzabal take the next step at international level, too. A regular in the youth set-up over recent years, he has made 19 appearances for the U-21 side since 2017, chipping in with six goals. He recently scored his first goal for the senior side in only his second appearance, against Sweden in a Euro 2020 qualifier at the Santiago Bernabeu, no less. Further recognition at the senior level is just a matter of time.
Incredible though it may seem, there’s so much more to come from Mikel Oyarzabal. He’s only just getting started!