As with many of the ‘canteranos’ featured this season, Asier Illarramendi is a one club man at this stage of his career, having joined Real Sociedad as a kid and progressed through the ranks to the first team. His first taste of La Liga action arrived when he came on a substitute in Sociedad’s 2-1 loss at Villarreal in January 2011, but although he made the starting eleven twice in the weeks which followed, it was not until the beginning of the 2011-12 campaign that he became a regular starter.
Illarramendi’s first major setback in his career came when he sustained a knee injury in November 2011, a problem which kept him sidelined for nearly three months. On his return to the side, he was red carded in a 4-1 defeat at Mallorca, and thus missed another two games. However since then he has become an integral part of Sociedad’s extraordinary transformation from relegation haunted strugglers to Champions League contenders, making 28 appearances in his favoured defensive midfielder role.
Illarramendi was also called up to the Spanish Olympic squad last summer, although ultimately he stayed on the sidelines. However his rise to prominence has predictably not gone unnoticed by Real Madrid, who are beginning the process of sorting out a long term replacement for Xabi Alonso. Illarramendi is contracted to Sociedad until 2018, with a buyout clause of 30 million euros indicating how highly his current employers rate him.
There is no question of Madrid paying that sort of money for a young man who has only recently become a first team regular, and indeed their priorities seem to lie with acquiring the services of Ruben Pardó, a ‘canterano’ featured earlier this season in this column. However should the price come down and Illarrmanedi get his chance to perform on the biggest European stage of all next season, it is a safe bet to say that it will not be long before his status as a one club man will be over.