ATHLETIC

Iñaki Williams closing in on Liga consecutive appearance record

Iñaki Williams has not missed a Liga game for Athletic since 17 April, 2016, a run of 187 consecutive appearances and 15 short of the all-time record.

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Iñaki Williams closing in on Liga consecutive appearance record

Iñaki Williams was rested against Málaga in week 33 of LaLiga action in the 2015-16 season, a game that took place on 17 April, 2016. He was not alone: other stalwarts of the Athletic side that campaign including Aritz Aduriz, Mikel Merino and Aymeric Laporte were also left out after the Lions had suffered an agonizing defeat against Sevilla in the quarter-finals of the Europa League three days earlier, with Beñat missing a penalty. Three days after the game against Málaga, Ernesto Valverde’s side were due to play Atlético Madrid away. All in all, an unremarkable selection policy by the Athletic coach given the run of fixtures. However, few could have reasonably expected it would still be the last time Williams missed a Liga game for Athletic five years later.

The Athletic forward is on the verge of beating a record that even fewer thought it possible to get near in the modern game, with rotations and injuries and the pure slog of 50-game seasons for clubs competing in Europe and regularly appearing in the final stages of the Copa del Rey. Williams now has 187 consecutive Liga appearances to his name and will equal the mark set by legendary Real Sociedad keeper Luis Arconada of 188 when Athletic play Betis on 21 April, reaching 189 a few days later against Atlético Madrid.

After that, if his extraordinary run continues unhindered, Williams will have the all-time record of Juan Antonio Larrañaga, like Arconada another La Real 400-plau appearance holder. The defensive midfielder made 202 consecutive Liga appearances for Real Sociedad between 1987 and 1991 and Williams will equal that figure in week 7 of the 2021-22 season.

Williams: "Equalling the record will be difficult but I’d love to beat it”

“It [the record] is within reach, I hope I can continue to help the team,” Williams said recently. “It’s partly to do with genes and the sacrifices I’ve made, but I’ve also been lucky with injuries and with all of the coaches who have given me time on the pitch. I’m grateful to them for their trust. Equalling the record will be difficult but I’d love to beat it.”

The Athletic forward has been busy ticking off Liga legends this season on his way to the overall record. On 22 December he surpassed Real Madrid great Alfredo Di Stéfano’s mark of 171 in a game against Villarreal and two weeks ago against Eibar he made his 185th consecutive Liga appearance to overtake Athletic and Barcelona keeper Andoni Zubizarreta to move into third place.