Why Everton should try to beat Arsenal to the signature of Unai Nunez
According to the Daily Mail, Everton and Arsenal are set to go head-to-head in a transfer tug-of-war over Spanish centre-back Unai Nunez, who currently plies his trade with Athletic Bilbao in the La Liga.
The 22-year-old defender, who rose through the youth ranks of the Basque Country outfit, is contracted to his boyhood club until the summer of 2023 but his £30million release clause has apparently put the likes of Everton and Arsenal on red alert.
Having shot to prominence at the youth and reserve level, Unai Nunez burst on to the first-team picture at Bilbao during the 2017-18 campaign and immediately nailed down a regular starting role at the heart of the defence, starting 33 La Liga fixtures in what was his breakthrough season.
Despite having impressed with his consistent performances over the course of his first season at the senior level, the 22-year-old has slipped down the pecking order since the start of the previous campaign.
Nunez started only 11 times in the league for Athletic Bilbao last term and things have hardly taken a turn in the positive direction for the youngster this term, with the Spaniard starting 3 of the first 8 league games so far.
The Bilbao academy graduate, who starred in Spain’s triumphant campaign at the 2019 UEFA U-21 European Championship earlier in the summer, was recently handed his senior international debut for Spain but he has struggled to displace more established central defenders like Yeray Alvarez and Inigo Martinez at his boyhood club.
However, he is still regarded as one of the brightest emerging centre-backs in Spain and his stocks are currently soaring higher than ever following his international debut in September. The 22-year-old has been tipped for a big future ahead of him.
Unai Nunez could be a wonderful long-term investment for both Arsenal and Everton given that their defensive problems are well-documented. However, the Toffees should look to beat off competition from the Gunners in the race to sign the Spaniard in January.
Everton currently languish in the relegation zone following a nightmarish start to their campaign, having already shipped as many as 13 goals, scoring only 5 in 8 league fixtures so far.
The Toffees have been hit hard by the departures of Phil Jagielka and Kurt Zouma in the summer and with the centre-back pairing of Michael Keane and Yerry Mina struggling to provide any kind of solidity to the backline, Marco Silva has to dip into the market for a new defender.
Mason Holgate, of course, is a feasible back-up but he is still inexperienced at the highest level and is yet to earn the trust of the manager, meaning that the door is open for a new central defender to arrive at the club and make an immediate impact on the first-team.
To that end, a burgeoning young talent like Unai Nunez would solve a grave issue in a key area of the pitch for Silva. The youngster could well be the man to answer Everton’s prayers for a new centre-back.
As per whoscored, the 22-year-old averages 4 successful aerial duels, 6 clearances and 7 successful long balls per game in the La Liga this term, figures which speak volumes of his well-rounded attributes as a modern-day ball-playing centre-back.
The 1-cap Spanish international is still quite young for a centre-back and one would expect him to get better with time. Nevertheless, he does have the quality to make an instant impact at Goodison Park.
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It remains to be seen whether he would really be an upgrade on Mina and Keane but his arrival would certainly increase the competition for places at the heart of the defence.
With that in mind, Everton should go all out in their pursuit of the £30million-rated La Liga star in January as the Toffees continue to look fragile at the back. They have to get their season back on track and this could well be the way to do it.