Nico Williams is one of the brightest stars of Spain’s new generation. Source: Imago Images
Nico Williams is one of the brightest stars of Spain’s new generation. Source: Imago Images

Nico Williams – from humble beginnings to Euros stardom

EURO OlyBet 05.07.2024

Four years ago, David Gordo, then coach of Spain’s U17 national football team, remarked that while Nico Williams had a lot of room for improvement, his future looked incredibly bright. This year’s Euros have proven him right!

Indeed, the 21-year-old winger hasn’t scored the most goals or provided the most assists in the tournament. Nevertheless, Williams has been one of the most crucial players for the Spanish team, whose exceptional performances on the field have made him a key player that Germany must contend with in today’s quarter-final.

However, his rise to prominence is no surprise. Williams had an outstanding season with Athletic Bilbao, scoring five goals and providing 11 assists in La Liga. In terms of assists, he was only outdone by Villarreal’s attacking midfielder Álex Baena, who managed 14.

It is worth noting that Williams achieved his 11 assists from 36 chances created, according to statisticians. For comparison, Baena’s 14 assists came from 70 chances, and Celta Vigo star Iago Aspas managed 10 assists from 80 chances. In other words, Williams’ partnership with his Athletic teammates was extraordinarily efficient.

But none of this success – neither the impressive season in Spain nor his achievements at the Euros – would have been possible without the difficult and dangerous journey his parents undertook 30 years ago.

A journey to Spain

Nico’s older brother, Iñaki, who was born in Bilbao and represents Ghana internationally, recounted in a Guardian interview three years ago how their parents arrived in Spain.

The Williams family hails from Ghana. In the 1990s, they left the country, and María and Félix Williams trekked across the Sahara Desert without food or water in search of a better life, despite María being pregnant. Upon reaching Melilla, a Spanish autonomous city in Morocco, authorities detained them. Following a lawyer’s advice, they destroyed their Ghanaian papers and claimed to be from war-torn Liberia, seeking political asylum in Spain. Their request was granted, and the family moved to Bilbao in northern Spain before relocating to Pamplona.

Their new life in Spain was far from easy, as they had no money. Félix worked in London for a long time, while María toiled from morning till night in Spain, leaving Iñaki to look after his younger brother.

Now, with Nico making his breakthrough, Iñaki feels immense pride in his brother’s accomplishments. “There is no limit to his abilities,” he has said.

Williams is mature

Although talent can be subjective, there is no doubt that, unlike his brother, Nico Williams won’t stay with Athletic for his entire career. Last season, he was linked with several top clubs, including Real Madrid, Liverpool, and Barcelona.

There was even a possibility that Williams might leave his childhood club for free, as his contract was set to expire on June 30 this year. However, late last year, he signed a new three-year deal with Athletic, but rumors about a transfer have not subsided, especially after his stellar performances at the Euros.

Williams is on the radar of major clubs not just because of his youth and talent. He is an exceptionally sharp winger, known for his speed, technical skills, physical strength, and excellent passing. For instance, in the Round of 16 match against Georgia, all of his passes were accurate, and he also provided an assist and scored a goal.

Importantly, Williams is not just an individual player. Yes, he excels in one-on-one duels, but he also contributes defensively and presses opponents willingly. Unlike players like Arjen Robben, he is effective with both feet, not just using one for running.

Despite being only 21, there are no signs that Williams is letting success go to his head. His game is mature, and interviews portray him as a player eager to learn from more experienced teammates.

In an interview with the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia, Williams mentioned that striker Alvaro Morata is his mentor in the national team. “He always tells me that I have many qualities to become a great winger and a great scorer. He keeps telling me that my biggest area for improvement is off-the-ball movement, making runs, and positioning. He says I’m very good with the ball at my feet, but I need to move and position myself better.

He is a very close person, I would say he is like an older brother. He is the captain and always tries to help in everything, not just in soccer. If you need something, he is always willing to help,” praised Williams.

Certainly, his grounded nature and his parents’ challenging past play a significant role in keeping him humble. Williams explained, “I was just a teenager when they told me about their journey to Spain. It made me take life seriously. Both Iñaki and I are not vain because we know where we come from, what we are and were before..”

The only thing Williams does not know right now is his club future. He says he is focused solely on the national team during the Euros and will think about where to play next season only after the tournament ends.

There is no shortage of suitors, and he has been most closely linked with Barcelona. Williams is even more attractive to top clubs because one of Spain’s brightest talents is available for €55 million, which is almost pocket change for football powerhouses.


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