He is a tall attacking midfielder with big powerful feet – and Barcelona have already fallen foul of the 19-year-old Mikel Oyarzabal.
Name: Mikel Oyarzabal
Club: Real Sociedad
Debut: 25 October 2015 v Levante (Liga)
Date of birth: 21 April 1997
Preferred foot: left
They say ...
"I see him grow from day to day. Everything that he brings to the side is positive and as a coach I'm very happy with him."
Eusebio Sacristán, Real Sociedad head coach
"It's a tradition at Real Sociedad that young academy graduates get opportunities in the first team and can strive to write the best pages in La Real's history. It's brilliant news that a young lad, who made his debut this season and is now a regular, has signed a new deal until 2021."
Jokin Aperribay, Real Sociedad president, after Oyarzabal signed a new contract in February
Born in Eibar, in the province of Gipuzkoa, Oyarzabal started out with his home-town club before joining Real Sociedad aged 14. He progressed through the ranks in San Sebastian, making his reserve-team bow at 17 in November 2014 and proceeding to become a regular for La Real's second string. After an impressive start to this season, he debuted for the first team, under then coach David Moyes, as a substitute in October's 4-0 Liga victory at Levante and has since become a key member of Eusebio Sacristán's side.
Playing style ...
Known as 'Bigfoot' for his size 47 boots, Oyarzabal unsurprisingly possesses a hammer of a left foot in addition to excellent technique, an eye for a pass and genuine pace. His ability to make late, ghosting runs into the box has also enabled him to rack up four goals in 20 appearances in his maiden Liga campaign. Not a bad return for a teenager.
Shades of ...
His rise through the Anoeta ranks, coupled with the fact he is deployed on the left flank and favours his left foot, have drawn comparisons to Antoine Griezmann. Much like the Frenchman, Oyarzabal drifts into more central positions and may end up as more of a No10. Their playing styles are similar, yet Oyarzabal is considerably taller than Griezmann and is a real presence at set pieces.
Eureka moment ...
When Barcelona visited San Sebastian earlier this month, barely four minutes had passed when Oyarzabal rose highest to meet Xabi Prieto's cross and thunder an unstoppable header past Claudio Bravo. The Anoeta went wild, chanting the name of their newest hero in what was an all-round match-winning display that made many sit up and take note.
Best-case scenario ...
Now a regular, Oyarzabal had caught the attention of local rivals Athletic Club given his Basque heritage, but signed a new deal in February committing him to La Real until 2021. Possessing all the tools to become a genuine goalscoring midfielder, capable of 15-plus a season, he has been capped at Spain Under-18 and U19 levels; his next task will be to break into La Rojita – the U21s.
He says ...
"I'm very comfortable. Every day I'm happier and more confident, but from day one when I came into the side everyone in the first team has treated me brilliantly and that has given me a lot of confidence."
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