Western United continued to improve its midfield depth – and its look down the middle of the pitch – with the signing of journeyman Spanish midfielder Iker Guarrotxena.
And Western United personnel couldn’t be any more delighted to have achieved the signature of the 28-year-old Guarrotxena ahead of Saturday night’s A-League match against Melbourne City at AAMI Park, a game that Western United coach Mark Rudan said that Guarrotxena is expected to see some playing time.
“We are excited to have added Iker to the squad, to give the team another attacking weapon, and further competition to starting spots,” said Ante Kovacevic, Western United’s general manager of football operations, said on Thursday when announcing the acquisition of Guarrotxena.
“Iker is a livewire on the field and will bring a lot of energy and intensity to our team, and hopefully goals and goal scoring opportunities,” added Kovacevic.
Guarrotxena – pronounced “GWA-row-ZEE-na” – was acquired on a free transfer from Greek Super League club Volos, for whom he signed with last January.
Guarrotxena joins Victor Sanchez as the second-year A-League club’s Spanish connections, both in the midfield.
While Sanchez is vying for a spot as a defensive midfielder for Rudan’s side, Guarrotxena could compete with the likes of Italian Alessandro Diamanti and homegrown product Max Burgess as an attacking midfielder, or could display his versatility by playing out on either wing.
And Guarrotxena – not lacking for confidence, as he describes himself as a “dynamic” player – thinks he can make an impact for Western United immediately.
“I have a big season in front of me. I have motivation because I think this is a good opportunity for me to grow with the club, so I’m happy,” he said.
“So my first target is to have a good season with the club, with the team, and of course, my personal target is to score goals.
Rudan spoke in Western United’s preseason preparations about improvements being made to his team’s spine up the centre of the park, from striker Besart Berisha on down through to key central defender Andrew Durante, and the signing of Guarrotxena continues to fit that mould.
“He is a great age, very mobile, he’s a good dribbler, he makes forward runs, he can score, he can play wide, play inside, operate as a Number 10 as well and he was fit, he was actually playing at the time we signed him,” Rudan said.
Guarrotxena had been training with Western United for some time ahead of his official signing, as Rudan was looking for an attacking midfield option due to uncertainty over Burgess’s status with the club for this season.
Burgess had been looking for a move within the A-League to a Sydney-based club, and was holding out in order to get that achieved. Nonetheless, Burgess has just returned to training and is looking to establish his fitness after accepting an olive branch with Western United’s management.
During the club’s impasse with Burgess’s representatives, Guarrotxena’s presence in the Western United camp couldn’t come at a better time for Rudan’s assessments.
“We had one foreign position open and I was pretty clear on where that player had to play on positioning, further up the park,” said Rudan.
“And at the time, we didn’t know what Max was going to do,” he added.
Australia is Guarrotxena’s fourth country to play his football in, having played two seasons for Polish top-flight side Pogon Szczecin before moving on to Volos.
Guarrotxena has also played a majority of his career for a variety of clubs in Spain’s second division, enjoying his best run of form with his hometown club Athletic Bilbao from 2012 to 2016, scoring 22 goals in 92 appearances for the La Liga’s side’s “B” team for those four seasons.
Guarrotxena, in addition to being Western United’s second Spanish signing alongside Sanchez since losing to Melbourne City in last season’s A-League semi-finals, is the fifth player from Spain to ink a deal in Australia’s top-flight.
He joins Adelaide United’s Javi López, Perth Glory’s Diego Castro, and Markel Susaeta and Beñat Etxebarria at expansion side Macarthur FC.
Guarrotxena had spoken to a number of those players and other Spanish players about the A-League, and they gave it enough of a seal of approval for him to consider making the move to Western United.
“I spoke with them and always they spoke well about Australia, because they said the football is good,” Guarrotxena said.
“[In Australia] it is the kind of football that we [Spaniards] can adapt well to, so I think for me as well, I can adapt well to this style.
“I can enjoy, I can score goals, I can help the team and I think I’m a prepared player for this style of football,” he added.
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