Why Inaki Williams could be the new Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for Jurgen Klopp
By Football Whispers
Last Updated: 20/10/16 1:38pm
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is reportedly considering signing a new striker this January. Football Whispers take a look at one option.
Last season saw Inaki Williams step out of the shadows and into the forefront at Athletic Bilbao.
He showed glimpses of the talent that had fans on the edge of their seat and sparked a perpetual debate around which of Europe's elite clubs Williams would inevitably end up at.
It was a season that locals had anticipated ever since Williams joined Bilbao's Lezama youth system in 2012.
His two-year stint with Bilbao's B team, between 2013-2015, saw him score 21 goals in just 32 appearances.
During his second season he started to feature regularly for the first-team, making 19 appearances in La Liga as well as playing in the Europa League. It was in the latter competition that he netted his first professional goal for the club.
After only being fleetingly used during his first full season with Atheltic Club, it was during his second season with the first-team that Williams cemented his place in the starting XI after capitalising on Iker Muniain's injury and making the right-wing position his own.
Although not the versatile forward's favoured position, he used his many strengths: his explosive pace, his dribbling ability and his intelligent movement, to make the dynamic between himself and first choice striker Aritz Aduriz very effective.
His goal against Espanyol in November 2015 has drawn comparisons to the one Paul Gascoigne scored against Scotland at Euro 96. Williams, on the half turn at the time, controlled an awkward ball to him by flicking it over an Espanyol defender before lashing home an emphatic volley much to the delight of the home crowd.
It was then that reports started to circulate that Premier League clubs Everton, Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool were interested in the Spanish forward.
In January this year, The Guardian reported Liverpool were ready to activate Williams' €20m release clause. However, Williams signed a new five-and-a-half-year deal with Bilbao before the January transfer window came to and end, hiking his release clause up to the €50m mark.
It's an eye-watering amount for a player with a little under 3,500 minutes of La Liga action to his name but Williams has shown that he has the ability and the potential to be Bilbao's greatest ever export.
Following the likes of Javi Martinez and Ander Herrera with a big money move away from the club would be a natural progression if he wanted to flourish on the big stage.
According to Spanish Media outlet Don Balon, Liverpool aren't put off by the release clause, which would see the player become the club's record transfer signing, as they state Williams is top of Jurgen Klopp's January wish-list.
The club bolstered their attacking options with the summer acquisition of Southampton's Sadio Mane and the Senegalese attacker has transformed the attack.
His aggressive style, electric pace, work ethic and goal threat has given Liverpool the edge in some of their early Premier League games and it was a spark the club had been missing in the attack. However, the Reds can't become too over-reliant on one player so bringing in someone with the same strengths makes perfect business sense.
Williams shares so many similarities stylistically with Mane. As well as having the explosive pace, the intelligent movement and the goal threat, Williams is strong in the air and, despite his brute strength, there is something delicate about how he manipulates the ball at great pace.
Although he's a natural forward he's shown at Bilbao that he can play anywhere behind the striker. Klopp may use him like he used Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang during the 2014/15 season at Borussia Dortmund. Liverpool operate with a narrow attacking system meaning even though Williams may start wide, much like Aubameyang did, he'll be influencing the play centrally and getting beyond the striker.
It's easy to see why Liverpool would be interested in the dynamic Williams - will Klopp make his move in January?
Want to see what all the fuss about? Williams will be in action for Bilbao on Sunday against Real Madrid - you can watch the game live on Sky Sports 3 from 7.30.