Inaki Williams has quickly become a hit with the Athletic Bilbao fans since his promotion from the youth feeder team, Bilbao Athletic. The 20-year-old starred in last week’s 1-0 win over Real Madrid and received a standing ovation from the San Mames upon his substitution.
More was known about how a player with the name ‘Williams’ came to appear in the Basque-only zone that is Bilbao, rather than his footballing ability. That has all changed however since becoming the first Black player to score for the club, and many of Europe’s top sides are turning their heads in his direction.
Williams, born to a Ghanaian father and Liberian mother in Bilbao, signed with the club at 16 and has risen up the ranks to the first team, largely thanks to his goalscoring form in the last 12 months.
His 13 goals with Bilbao’s B team in the Spanish third tier alerted him to coach Ernesto Valverde, who was quick to add him to the squad in December when Aritz Aduriz was injured. Williams then became the first ever Black player to appear for Athletic when he debuted against Cordoba, and the first to score when he finished against Torino in the Europa League.
Such has been the surprise emergence of Williams, despite his goals in the lower leagues, that Valverde has been forced to admit his mistake at not calling him up sooner. The youngster’s injection of pace on the wing has been integral to Bilbao’s play, and was used with great success against Madrid on Saturday.
Williams is direct and powerful and has shown his eye for goal with Bilbao Athletic. Repeating the strike rate in La Liga will be tougher, and next season will be the acid test for the striker. Nevertheless, his wing play has given the side extra width and options in a disappointing year.
It is not known who Williams will represent on the international stage as he is eligible for three countries. Ghana have already made their intentions known, whilst Liberia and Spain are also options for the man who has lived in the Basque Country all of his life. His situation is like Adnan Januzaj’s, and could be put on hold as the youngster establishes himself in the Bilbao first team following his impressive start.