Record-breaking Athletic Bilbao striker Iñaki Williams has won LaLiga Santander’s Mid Season African MVP Award, after a conclusive vote by a jury of football journalists and fans.
Born in Bilbao with strong African roots, the 28-year-old has spent his entire professional career with Athletic Bilbao, with the pacey forward scoring 80 goals in his 362 appearances for Los Leones (The Lions) since making his LaLiga debut for Athletic as an 18-year-old teenager.
The award is an acknowledgement and celebration of the standout African players campaigning in LaLiga and Williams was a convincing winner following a public vote and the votes submitted by a number of leading sports journalists across the African continent.
Williams made global headlines recently – for not being on the pitch - after his incredible run of 251 consecutive LaLiga games for Athletic Bilbao came to an end when he was forced to miss Athletic’s LaLiga game against RC Celta due to a muscle injury.
His amazing streak started on 7 April 2016 and he set a new record for the most consecutive LaLiga appearances in October 2021 after 203 straight games, eclipsing the 202 made by Real Sociedad’s Juanan Larrañaga.
Williams’ astonishing record ended this past weekend when he missed the RC Celta game, bringing to an end an incredible run of 2 468 days and nearly seven years without missing a league game for Athletic.
“Iñaki Williams has long established himself as a fantastic footballer whose name will forever be etched in the LaLiga history books and he is a popular and worthy winner of the LaLiga Santander Mid Season African MVP Award. The award is a tribute to the huge contribution made by so many world-class African players to LaLiga over the years and also an acknowledgement of the huge growth of LaLiga among Africa’s passionate football fans. We warmly congratulate Iñaki for this award and thank everyone who participated in this popular competition,” said Marcos Pelegrin, LaLiga’s Southern Africa Managing Director.
A huge fan favourite, Williams is a key part of the fabric of his boyhood club and is one of Athletic Club’s biggest stars and most important players. Revered for his spectacular and important goals for the club, Williams has again been one of the team’s stars of a solid LaLiga Santander 2022/23 season.
He also garnered plenty of plaudits and MVP votes for his fantastic displays for Ghana at the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar, where the Black Stars beat South Korea 3-2 and were narrowly edged out by Portugal by the same margin, in a gutsy display in Qatar.
A proudly Basque player with dual Spanish and Ghanaian nationality, Williams opted to represent Ghana - the birthplace of both his parents - on the international stage.
The LaLiga Santander African MVP Award is now in its second season and Williams saw off a number of high-quality African footballers to win the Mid Season Award.
Sevilla FC’s exceptional Moroccan goalkeeper Yassine Bounou won the inaugural LaLiga Santander African MVP Award last season and led Morocco to a historic first African semifinal spot at the Fifa World Cup in Qatar.
Another strong African performer in LaLiga this season has been Mozambican wing-back Reinildo Mandava, who has been a key player for Diego Simeone’s Atletico de Madrid.
RC Celta’s Ghanaian centre back, Joseph Aidoo, the Senegalese trio of Pathé Ciss of Rayo Vallecano, Villarreal CF winger Nicolas Jackson and Real Betis right back Youssouff Sabaly have also impressed with consistent football in over 10 hours each on the pitch this season.
At Getafe CF, meanwhile, one of the league’s most long-serving African players, Dakonam Djené of Togo, has once again been consistent at the heart of the side’s defence this season.
Williams will now hope to recover quickly from his injury to get back onto the pitch to continue to stake his claim for the LaLiga Santander African MVP Award at the end of the season.