Rising stars of LaLiga: Valladolid's Enes Unal
Ünal building on early success in LaLiga
Real Valladolid’s emerging centre-forward Enes Ünal is used to making an immediate impression; the young Turkish international is already well established as one of LaLiga’s rising stars. On loan for the 2018/19 season from fellow LaLiga club Villarreal, Ünal has been an important figure in Valladolid’s impressive campaign so far despite being just 21 years old.
Ünal fact file
Success has often come early for Ünal. He scored just three minutes into his senior club debut for Bursaspor against Galatasaray in August 2013, becoming the youngest player to net in Turkey's top division at just 16 years and three months. Such precocity alerted Premier League club Manchester City who signed Ünal in July 2015, with the youngster gaining experience on loan at Belgian club Genk and Dutch teams NAC Breda and FC Twente, where he scored 18 goals during the 2016–17 season.
That brought a move to Spain, with Villarreal agreeing to a permanent transfer in summer 2017. A LaLiga Santander debut came in the season opener at Levante, with a first goal for Villarreal arriving in a 3-1 victory over Real Betis a few weeks later.
An injury crisis at Levante lead to Villarreal generously loaning their young striker to their neighbours in October 2017, and Ünal also scored on his debut for Los Granotas against Girona. He returned to Villarreal in January, and again found the net in his first game back. Amid all the movement the tall frontman finished his first season with six LaLiga goals, including a memorable quick-fire double to beat Atletico de Madrid 2-1 at the Estadio de la Ceramica in March.
Last August Ünal was on the move again, joining newly-promoted side Real Valladolid on a one-year loan deal. He played a key role in an excellent start on the club’s return to LaLiga Santander. Well taken goals in the opening weeks against RC Celta and Levante were key as Sergio Fernandez’s team began picking up points.
Recent games have been a bit more difficult for the blanquivioletas [white and violets], with Ünal’s duties as a lone frontman in the team’s 4-3-3 shape also including battling with opposition centre-backs to hold the ball up and working hard in his defensive duties. Sergio has options up front, including Croatia international Duje Cop and January signing Sergi Guardiola, but Ünal remains a vital member of the team.
Such progress in LaLiga has been followed very closely back home in Turkey, where Ünal’s father Mesut played professionally for Bursaspor after representing his country at youth level. Enes also had much success at underage levels with Turkey and gained a first international senior appearance in a 2-1 win against Luxembourg in March 2015 when aged just 17. He now has 11 full caps, the most recent of which he picked up in a friendly against Ukraine last November.
All at Valladolid know that despite their excellent first half of the season they will have to battle all the way to stay up, with Ünal looking to meet the challenge of scoring the goals to ensure LaLiga Santander football again next season. He is then contracted to return to Villarreal next summer when further decisions will be made around his future.
Turning 22 next May, the striker already has bags of experience and goals scored in four different countries. But what looks certain at this stage is that his future lies in LaLiga, which is good news for fans of both Valladolid and Villarreal.