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HomeSportsFootballAthletic Bilbao Signs British Academy Prospect Elijah Gift in £1 Million Deal

Athletic Bilbao Signs British Academy Prospect Elijah Gift in £1 Million Deal

17-year-old attacker becomes one of the rare English academy players to join Athletic Bilbao

Athletic Bilbao prides itself on having one of the most unique and strict player recruitment policies in top-level football. With a commitment to signing players with Basque heritage only, the club has become synonymous with its unwavering dedication to nurturing local talent. However, eyebrows were raised when the Spanish club recently announced the signing of Elijah Gift, a 17-year-old attacker from Liverpool.

Gift’s arrival at Athletic Bilbao signifies a rarity in the football world, as academy players from England joining Spanish clubs is not a common occurrence, let alone at a club with Bilbao’s stringent signing policy.

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So, who is Elijah Gift?

Seventeen-year-old Elijah Gift is primarily a right-wing attacker. Born in Corella, a small municipality located in Navarre, northern Spain, his path to signing for Bilbao can be traced back to his eligibility under the club’s strict rules – Corella falls within the Basque country region, which encompasses Bilbao.

While he holds dual citizenship in Cuba and Spain, Gift journeyed through the academy of Huddersfield Town before eventually making his way to Liverpool as a U12 player.

Gift’s first full season in proper age-group football came in the 2022/23 season when he shone with the Liverpool 18s, leaving a lasting impression on observers.

Impressive Stats

Despite being just 16 years old at the time, Gift showcased his raw talent throughout the season. In 18 appearances, he netted four goals and provided three assists, dazzling opponents with his exceptional dribbling skills. It’s worth noting that Gift started just eight games, accumulating a total playing time of 959 minutes. With a goal contribution every 137 minutes, his productivity as an attacker is certainly praiseworthy.

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Gift also made his debut in both the UEFA Youth League and the FA Youth Cup, featuring in three games for a combined 161 minutes. Though he failed to score or assist in either competition, his playing style consistently posed a threat to opponents.

Playing Style

As a left-footed right-winger, Gift’s cutting inside onto his left foot to unleash powerful shots is a notable strength. However, it is evident that his potential extends far beyond this trademark move.

Gift’s exceptional ball control and dribbling skills create space for his teammates as defenders are drawn towards him. Additionally, he utilizes his pace to make well-timed runs, albeit occasionally being caught offside (nine times last season).

Moreover, Gift’s defensive contribution is remarkable. In the limited time on the pitch, he won 12 tackles and made 34 recoveries. He understands the modern game’s demands for wide players to track back and support their fullbacks, showcasing both his work ethic and understanding of tactical responsibilities.

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Elijah Gift’s Potential

Assessing the potential of a player with only one season of U18 football under his belt is a challenging task. Nevertheless, Bilbao provides an ideal environment for Gift’s development, known for its dedication to nurturing young talent.

Gift will have the opportunity to learn from established players like Inaki Williams and could earn some chances in the first team immediately. At his best, he has the potential to become a player similar to Manchester United’s Antony, albeit with a slightly different reliance on his left foot. By diversifying his attacking routine and occasionally utilizing the byline, Gift can become an intimidating force for his opposition, especially with his exceptional dribbling skills.

The Spanish league, renowned for its slow-paced and technical nature compared to the more physical Premier League, will provide an ideal platform for Gift to further develop his on-ball qualities. As he becomes familiar with senior football and its complex tactical structures, it won’t be surprising if Gift garners interest from Premier League giants in the next five years, cementing his reputation after flourishing at Athletic Bilbao in Spain.

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In conclusion, Athletic Bilbao’s unyielding focus on signing players with Basque heritage has made them one of the most unique clubs in top-level football. Elijah Gift’s signing adds a touch of diversity to their prestigious academy. With his exceptional skills and potential, Gift could soon become a household name in football, captivating fans both in Spain and beyond.

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