While Ferran Torres and Gavi have taken the headlines for Spain in this international break, Mikel Oyarzabal has continued to impress in a more understated way.
It’s been the way of his career so far – always considered a great prospect without ever becoming the focus of a major transfer saga or being splashed on the front pages of Marca, the Basque has racked up 250 appearances and 70 goals for Real Sociedad by the age of 24, and is now a regular and a key player for Luis Enrique’s Spain.
Perhaps it just a result of the way he looks – a big nose, big feet, an awkward gait and messy, thinning hair. He has none of the galactico gleam, and is all the more lovable for it.
Versatile, committed, intelligent and technically gifted, Oyarzabal has it all. It’s already easy to see him fitting in at the very best clubs in the world, even if just as a squad player. If he continues to shine for La Real, and they continue to impress at the top of La Liga, this summer may be the moment that his abilities are finally recognised by the 5 or 6 top clubs in Europe.
At that point, he will have to make a career defining decision – to stay stay at the club he’s grown up with, knowing that their is a ceiling on their success; or to risk moving to a top club, where he could be lost in the noise and the hype that he’s so skilfully avoided in his career so far.
The club where he has already made himself an icon are historic, rich enough to pay him whatever he deserves, and capable of building a very good team to play around him. Now it’s down to Oyarzabal to decide whether his ambition is greater than what they can offer him, and how heavily he weighs the glory of winning the very top trophies in football when he looks back at his career.