Inaki Williams’ record-breaking run of consecutive La Liga appearances came to an end on Sunday as Athletic Club lined up against Celta Vigo without the Ghana international for the first time in almost seven years.
Ernesto Valverde was at the helm of Athletic when Williams began his staggering sequence of 251 consecutive outings in La Liga’s top flight back in April 2016.
Barcelona lured Valverde to Catalonia in 2017 and Jose Angel Ziganda, Eduardo Berizzo, Gaizka Garitano and Marcelino Toral all played Williams in every available league match. Valverde returned to San Mames this summer and was forced to leave the 28-year-old out of the squad which travelled to Vigo on Sunday while he nursed a muscle injury.
Athletic’s last La Liga match without Williams was away to Malaga on 17 April 2016. TikTok hadn’t been launched and Phil Neville was Valencia’s assistant manager.
In the intervening 2,478 days, Williams played 18,660 La Liga minutes for the Lions, almost 13 solid days.
When Williams broke the record for consecutive La Liga appearances in 2021 – which was set by Juan Antonio Larranaga, who played 202 straight games for Athletic’s arch-rivals Real Sociedad as the 1980s bled into the ’90s.
Afterwards, he paid tribute to his parents, who crossed the Sahara desert on foot to get to Spain while his mother was pregnant. Speaking to The Guardian, he said: “I couldn’t ever repay them – they risked their lives – but the life I try to give them is the one they dreamed of giving us. And, in some way, we can say: ‘We’ve done it.’”
Maria and Felix’s desert trek led them to Bilbao, where Williams was born. Had the due date not quite lined up with their arrival in the Basque country, Williams would not have been allowed to play one game for Athletic – who have a strict Basque-only policy among the playing staff – let alone 251 in a row.
During his record-breaking run, Inaki has played alongside 57 different Athletic teammates. However, one stands out above the rest. Inaki may have missed the away date with Celta Vigo, but there was still a Williams on the pitch. His little brother Nico started for Athletic at Balaidos on Sunday afternoon.
The fleet-footed winger hasn’t missed a game this season but is only on 19 consecutive top-flight outings. Yet, at just 20-years-old – one year younger than his brother when he started his record-breaking run – Nico has plenty of time to add to his tally.
As Inaki admitted after setting the milestone last season: “Well, if someone has to take the record off me, let it be my brother.”
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