Iñaki Williams’ crazy La Liga record ends after missing first match in nearly seven years

Until Sunday, Inaki Williams had played in every Athletic Bilbao La Liga match since 2016. But sadly, his outrageous run has finally come to an end.

With electric skills and the pace to match, the Ghanaian international has become a staple of the Spanish side, recording 78 goals in 362 appearances.

An thanks to his remarkable performances on the pitch, he’s become a fan favourite at the San Mamés stadium, with the fans lighting up every time they see him walk out of the tunnel.

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Iñaki Williams has had an incredible journey

While the world now witnesses the striker playing at the highest level, they didn’t see his grind to get there. Born in Bilbao to a Ghanaian father and a Liberian mother, he grew up in neighbouring Pamplona, and started playing for the local side.

Instantly catching the footballing bug, the youngster started to show real potential. However, his career could’ve ended before it even started, due to the vast distance he had to travel for training. Luckily, his teammates would take turns giving him lifts, which is something he’s eternally grateful for.

While running riot in the Pamplona junior leagues, he caught the eye of Athletic Bilbao, who quickly incorporated him into the club’s Lezama Academy.

Williams made his mark in the B team, impressing first-team manager, Ernesto Valverde, who decided to give him a massive opportunity. At just 20, he made his debut against Cordoba CF and didn’t look back. He scored his first goal in 2015 against Torino in the Europa League and quickly became the side’s talisman.

Linking up with Artiz Aduriz, he became almost unstoppable, scoring goals in big moments and running defenders ragged. And in possibly the highlight of his career, he scored a pivotal goal in the 93rd minute of the Supercopa de España Final to secure a historic victory over Barcelona.

But when it’s all said and done, that’s not the only thing he’ll be remembered for.

Read: George Best: Top 5 goals of a footballing great (sporf.com)

Iñaki Williams has the record for the most consecutive La Liga matches

The 28-year-old’s outrageous record started against Atletico Madrid back in 2016. After playing in the final five games of the season, he featured in all 38 of Athletic Bilbao’s fixtures in 2016/17 7, 2017/18, 2018/19, 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22, as well as the first 18 matches of the current campaign.

Therefore, until Sunday, there hadn’t been a single La Liga game he hadn’t played in since the club’s 1-0 win over Malaga in the spring of 2016.

To put that into context, at the time Real Madrid had only won ten Champions League trophies, the Spanish National Team were still the reigning European champion, Erling Haaland was playing in the reserve team of Bryne FK, Squid Game had yet to hit our screens, and Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor hadn’t even crossed paths.

However, on January 29, it all came to an end. Due to physical issues, a tearful crowd had to watch their side play without their beloved goal-scorer. But as Dr Seuss once coined: “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.”

In October 2021, his 203rd consecutive appearance broke the previous record set by Juan Antonio Larrañaga in 1993. But if that wasn’t already enough, he rode the fairytale train all the way to 251 back-to-back matches. And it doesn’t look like that figure will be surpassed anytime soon

Looking back on Iñaki Williams’ record

While his fitness levels are impressive, his history-making accomplishment is a testament to much more than merely staying in shape. Over the last few years, he’s worked under five coaches, all of whom placed unwavering confidence in him. This, in addition to his clean disciplinary record, allowed him to achieve the impossible.

Williams and Athletic Bilbao share a bond as strong as time. And in 2019, they vowed to keep their special relationship going for another nine years.

As per La Liga, after signing the contract, the legend stated: “I have always said that I am where I want to be. It’s a matter of pride for me to be linked with this great club for so many years. This is a club that has given me everything. Athletic Club always believed in me, and this is my home.”

Featured Image Credit: La Liga