COMMENT

Ghanaian striker Inaki Williams has not missed a game for Athletic Bilbao in 6 YEARS - Consistency or modern-day slavery?

Athletic Bilbao's striker of Ghanaian descent, Inaki Williams has played every La Liga game since 2016.

Spanish striker Inaki Williams is also eligible to represent Ghana

The last time Inaki Williams missed a league game for Athletic Bilbao was in April 2016, Barack Obama was still the president of the United States of America.

Two American presidents later and six years down the line, the Spanish striker of Ghanaian descent played his 227th consecutive game in La Liga.

Williams missed Athletic Bilbao's 1-0 win against Malaga on April 17 2016 due to a thigh injury but recovered in time to play the next game three days later and has been injured, suspended or even rested since then.

An admirable feat that is a testament to his incredible consistency, durability and commitment to the Bilbao cause but could there be something deeper at play here?

When this streak started getting attention, it was obvious the club wanted Inaki Williams to break the record for the most consecutive La Liga games, which was 202 by former Real Sociedad defender, Juanan Larranaga.

But Williams broke that record on October 1 2021 and has still been playing ever since perhaps trying to extend it and make it unbeatable in future which is understandable.

But in this era of rotation and load management, where players go through intense conditioning and average two games a week, there's no real reason for Williams to play 227 straight games.

The previous record of 202 games was set by Larranaga between 1986 and 1992, roughly the same period in which Williams has played 25 more games, a testament to how different football is between then and now.

Athletic Bilbao has certainly played many meaningless matches within that period in which Williams could have been rested if the player's wellbeing was being prioritised but here we are.

It is also worth noting that Athletic Bilbao operates the 'Cantera' policy of bringing young Basque players through the ranks, as well as only recruiting players from other Basque clubs. Athletic's official policy is to sign players native to or trained in football in the greater Basque Country, which includes Biscay, Gipuzkoa, Álava and Navarre (in Spain); and Labourd, Soule and Lower Navarre (in France).

With this policy, the talent pool available to the club is significantly diminished compared to their counterparts who sign players freely from any region in the World.

So it is somewhat understandable that when a talented player like Inaki Williams fell into their hands, they have become reluctant to drop him as he is undoubtedly their franchise player.

Despite getting linked to Liverpool and other top European clubs, Williams signed a nine-year contract extension with Bilbao in 2019 which clearly indicates where the club stands with him, they want him around for at least the next six years.

During this incredible run of consecutive La Liga games, there have been five different Bilbao managers and yet not one has thought to drop or even rest the 27-year old.

His run of games has certainly been impressive but the player's health and wellbeing have to be a top priority for the club moving forward or they risk some serious burnout in the future.

Especially since Williams may be switching his allegiance from Spain to Ghana ahead of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup, if care is not taken at this rate, he may just break down before the showpiece tournament.

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