Real Sociedad have always been among the most successful producers of young talent in Europe. Across the last 15 years, they have been able to bring through players such as Xabi Alonso, Antoine Griezmann, Iñigo Martínez, Asier Illarramendi and Álvaro Odriozola. The feat is even more remarkable given that Gipuzkoa, the province where Real Sociedad belongs to, is the smallest of the whole Spain, with a population of a little over 700,000.
The club is teetering on the brink of relegation, though. Their manager, Eusebio Sacristán, is unable to develop a plan B. He has always tried to implement a 'tiki taka' style, but this system needs depth. Otherwise, rivals learn quickly how to fight against it, and that is what has happened in San Sebastián, where they call Eusebio's tactics "tiki nada" or tiki nothing.
Due to a lack of ambition – and because of a huge economical offer as well -, Iñigo Martínez was the first who deserted the sinking ship. But now, the spotlight focuses on Mikel Oyarzabal. Barcelona and Real Madrid [Mundo Deportivo] are scouting him and his €50m release clause [MD] is a bargain in the current market.
Aged 20, he is one of the most promising players in Spanish football. He has played 1,819 minutes this season, scoring eight goals and providing six assists. He has already made his debut with the Spain national team at just 20 years old, and is also a superb defender.
His adeptness in wide positions – he has played on the right and left with equal measure this season - has led to comparisons with Antoine Griezmann. And there are plenty of other reasons to compare him to the Frenchman.
As the Atlético Madrid forward showed from the early days as a professional in the Anoeta stadium, he has an instinct which allows him to be in the right place at the right time. His passing accuracy is outstanding and he is a constant threat at set pieces despite his large feet. He is nicknamed "big foot" due to his size 11-and-a-halves.
Though David Moyes is remembered in San Sebastián as a disappointment, the West Ham United manager gave Oyarzabal his first senior opportunity. Nobody expected Oyarzabal to reach the first squad so quickly, but the Scot instantly turned to him when he arrived to the club.
Oyarzabal is bound to have many suitors to sign him the next season. Napoli's €30m bid in January, according to El Partidazo de Cope, could be the first of many, particular given that Athletic Bilbao received €60m from Manchester City for Aymeric Laporte [Sky Sports].
Due to their 'just Basques' philosophy, the first thing that they did was to sign Iñigo Martínez from Real Sociedad. But they paid "just" €30m [The Daily Mail], leaving plenty remaining to improve the squad.
Given that Aritz Aduriz, aged 37, is still playing and there are no reliable replacements in the academy to improve their attack, there is fear in San Sebastián that Oyarzabal could follow the path of Martinez.
The winger has enjoyed three wonderful seasons in La Liga and having made his debut with Spain , his aforementioned €50m clause is a bargain. Bilbao have a lot of money to spend and their philosophy turns Oyarzabal into a potential target. Barcelona and Real Madrid should run fast if they want to secure the signing of one of the most talented players aged under 21 in Europe.