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Iker Muniain - the only player to live up to the "next Messi" tag?

Given the importance of world class youth systems in the current world of football, the media give lots of attention to young players nowadays – they are always on the prowl to find the next big star. Youngsters are given special tags such as “The Next Ronaldo, Messi, Henry” etc regardless of whether they are ready to cope with the high expectations they’re being given. Most of these youngsters however, do not live up to these expectations, and end up being branded flops in the end. However, there is one player that has stood out from the rest and so far, has lived up to the tag the media has bestowed upon him. Iker Muniain – the Spanish Messi.

The following is a scout report:

The only one to live up to the "next Messi" tag? Yes.

Information:

Name: Iker Muniain Goñi

Age: 19

Nationality: Spain

Club: Athletic Bilbao

Position(s): Left wing/forward, attacking midfielder

Preferred foot: Right

Contract: Expires June 2015

Stats for both Athletic Bilbao & Spain (U17, U19, U21 included):

Appearances since 2009: 140

Goals since 2009: 20

Assists since 2009: 14

Pros:

Muniain in action.

- Close control.

- Pace to burn.

- Flair – attempts quite a lot of tricks which he has in his repertoire.

- Acceleration.

- Dribbling – seen as an outlet for creating chances and getting in the box.

- Intelligent, quick mind.

- Stamina and work rate – plays a lot of games for a player of his age but rarely shows signs of tiring.

Cons:

- Highly reliant on his right foot – if an intelligent defender shows him to his left foot, he can struggle sometimes and maybe prone to errors.

- Crossing isn’t accurate – out of 20 attempted crosses in La Liga this season, only 5 have met his teammates.

- Aerial duels – more due to his small frame (169 cm.)

- Shooting – his goal tally doesn’t do justice to his raw talent and brilliant performances. He has only scored 2 league goals after attempting 30 shots in La Liga this season.

Style of play:

Muniain taking on defenders.

- Blessed with speed and hence, can accelerate at a fast pace leaving defenders chasing him. Due to his speed threat, he wins alot of fouls as opposing defenders have no other way to stop him – on average, he is fouled 2.6 times per game in La Liga this season, only 5 other players are fouled more.

- Perfect player for the counter-attack.

- With his dribbling skills and close control, he is great at getting past defenders and unlocking defenses. He has completed 1.6 dribbles per game on average in La Liga this season with only 11 players having a better dribbling rate.

- Plays a patient passing game.

Points to note:

Muniain representing Spain.

- While he may not have the same goalscoring/assist tally as Messi did when both were the same age, it’s understandable seeing as Messi had the luck of playing in a much superior team in Barcelona than Muniain’s Bilbao. That aside, both player’s style of play are very similar and Muniain can very well live up to his tag of the ‘Spanish Messi.’

- A regular for his team during his teens, Muniain is on course to complete his 3rd season at the highest club level at the tender age of only 19 years old.

- Youngest goalscorer in La Liga when he was 16 years and 289 days old in 2009.

- Was part of the U21 Spain team which won the UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship in 2011.

- Has already earned a cap recently for Spain which is no mean feat seeing as they have at their disposal, a wide array of talents known as the golden generation of Spain. Muniain will be sure to get more caps in the near future and may make the 23 man Spain squad for EURO 2012.

Verdict:

Iker Muniain – bound to succeed.

Iker Muniain is the future world superstar of football – he has everything to succeed and as he matures, more aspects of his game will also improve. While he is immensely loyal to Athletic Bilbao, one can’t help but think to achieve that superstar status, Muniain would have to move to a bigger club and play more games regularly at the highest level, especially in the Champions League.

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