On the heels of a second straight win, New York City FC rolls into the summer looking to make an even bigger statement.
That statement will likely involve Frank Lampard. It may or may not involve Andrea Pirlo (although his daughter is already bragging about moving to New York). But multiple reports from both sides of the ocean have identified longtime Athletic Bilbao fullback Andoni Iraola as the newest signing set to arrive at Yankee Stadium in July.
"[R]eports have come out that Iraola will not be taking one of the club's three Designated Players spots... The signing of Iraola ends a long chase by [City Football Group] CEO Ferran Soriano & Director Txiki Begiristain, who have been interested in signing the Basque defender since they were at Barcelona."
Later, from Mundo Deportivo (my translation):
"Two weeks after his final game with Bilbao, Andoni Iraola will sign with New York City. It was announced on official radio after the American club's last game, and news spread quickly. It was not a great surprise."
"Official radio?" What's all that about? Well, New York City FC has a number of tremendous radio guys in tow. Two of them -- Roberto Abramowitz and Glenn Crooks -- are sold on this story:
— Glenn Crooks (@GlennCrooks) June 14, 2015
The best news isn't the signing itself, assuming it goes through (with City Football Group, I have to see it to believe it!). The key is that Iraola's wage bill wouldn't force him into Designated Player status, leaving that spot open for an additional star.
So, what to know about Iraola? A native of Usurbil in the Basque Country, he appeared for regional giants Athletic Bilbao over 500 times, developing a reputation as an attacking fullback with a strong work rate and impressive all-around game. His Bilbao teams finished runner-up for the Spanish Copa del Rey three times, and routinely finished top-five in La Liga.
Also, in this year's UEFA Europa League, he did this:
Not bad for a defender, eh? R.J. Allen had his best MLS game on Saturday, but something tells me that Jason Kreis could probably find use for Iraola's skill set, which can also extend to the wide midfield.
The undercard to this story is the reported loan deal that would bring "Angelino" -- a.k.a. Jose Angel Tasende -- to New York City via Manchester City's Under-18 squad. Though the teenager was born fifteen years after Iraola, he has a similar penchant for attacking runs out of the fullback position. Given Javier Calle's injury woes and the constant shuffling at left back, Angelino brings needed depth and, by all accounts, a little pizzazz to Jason Kreis's back line.
At this rate, July will mark the beginning of what will feel like a whole new season. Squad outsiders like Connor Brandt and Matt Dunn may find themselves stashed down in Wilmington with the USL's Hammerheads to make room for the new signings, but that's likely a small price to pay for such attractive renovations.