Home BETTING TIPS Nico Williams is one of the players to watch this summer

Nico Williams is one of the players to watch this summer



Before the start of Euro 2024, while everyone was doing their pre-tournament predictions, one of the key topics was who would be the breakout star. The name of Athletic Club’s Nico Williams was on a number of people’s lips; the 21-year-old has enjoyed a superb season at club level, and this summer the Euros in Germany offered him an excellent springboard to improve.

Two games in and it is hard to ignore his progression. Between him and 16-year-old Barcelona wonderkid Lamine Yamal on either side, Spain have a strong foundation to build on as they look to win a first international tournament since 2012; but rather than ball-playing central midfielders, the bedrock of that historic side over a decade ago, they are exciting, energetic and direct wingers.

Spain have evolved; although not as fancied as England or France before the tournament started, now they are gathering momentum. That is thanks to Williams and Yamal; their fearlessness and drive has directly resulted in goals in both wins over Croatia and Italy in Group B. With Albania to come, La Roja are through already.

Williams was already on the radar of a number of different clubs after his successful campaign at club level. Alongside his brother Iñaki, eight years his senior, he helped Athletic win the Copa Del Rey for the first time in 40 years.

He is reported to have a €55m release clause in his contract. Premier League clubs are said to be watching him and he has spoken about his future recently.

“I’ve seen reports talking about my future, but honestly I have no clue of anything,” Williams said. “Right now, I want to focus on the Euros and nothing else.

“I am so happy in Bilbao, I signed a new deal and performed well last season. I feel at home, but I don’t know what I will do. Nobody can tell you about the future.”

Yamal and Williams have developed a very strong friendship off the pitch, which has undoubtedly contributed to their burgeoning combinations on it. The teenager has openly admitted he wants to reunite with him at club level this summer.

“We got along so well since my first day with the national team, and that bond has kept going until today,” Yamal said.

“If I could sign a player from the national team for Barcelona? Nico Wiliams, for sure. He is one of those wingers who take you on and get past you. He is daring and talented, which helps any team in the world. I have a lot of fplaying with him as I think it helps us be tougher to defend.”

Williams is an archetypal modern winger. He can go inside and out of a fullback, making him a nightmare to mark. But pace, dribbling and close control are basic requirements for players of his ilk. What sets the best of them apart is the ability to impact games and make something happen. With every run on Thursday, Williams was threatening the Italy back line, just as Yamal did against Croatia.

Major tournaments will always have an impact on recruitment and the transfer market. Scours everywhere will be watching all the games and reporting back. There is nothing wrong with that. But they should be used to confirm interest in players, rather than alert it. Williams is a player who has been shining on the big stage for some time, and he has taken that too a new level this summer. It feels difficult for Athletic to keep him now, especially with such a low release clause. Were there any doubts about Williams’ game before, they’ve been extinguished, and his club are in a vulnerable position now.

Athletic are known as willing sellers and used to seeing top talent leave, but on their own terms. They may well attempt to agree a new contract with Williams, increasing his release clause to better reflect his value.

Wherever happens, Williams has already justified the hype. Spain have new stars to build around as they look to re-establish themselves as the European force. Yamal is a generational talent, and Williams will have his pick of suitors when the time is right.