Not many 17-year-olds would try and nutmeg Atletico de Madrid veteran Diego Godin on their LaLiga debut, but current Eibar winger and LaLiga rising star Bryan Gil has always been something out of the ordinary.
Born in the town of Barbate in the southern Spanish province of Cadiz, Gil was invited to join Sevilla’s youth system aged just 10. He advanced quickly through the ranks, often being picked in teams with players one or even two years older. A big step forward came during 2018-19, when he scored four goals and gave six assists in 23 games for the Sevilla Atletico youth team playing in the third tier.
A first team debut arrived in January 2019, with Gil getting a taste of the famous Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan atmosphere during a high-profile top of the table clash against Atletico de Madrid which was balanced at 1-1. A few minutes on the pitch was enough to make a big impression, including on surprised veteran and grizzled LaLiga winner Godin.
Gil was regularly given more chances to impress and gain experience off the bench. When he set up teammate Munir El Haddadi to score in a 2-0 win over Real Valladolid in April, he became the first player born in the 21st century to give an assist in any of Europe’s top five leagues. A few weeks later he became the first of this new generation to score in LaLiga, with a fine left footed shot to wrap up the scoring in a 5-0 victory against Rayo Vallecano.
Gil’s expansive wing play and quiet personality off the pitch reminded many at Sevilla of his boyhood hero and now club captain Jesus Navas (albeit on the other side of the pitch), although competition for places at the Sanchez-Pizjuan limited his chances to play every week. So, January 2020 brought a loan move to CD Leganes. While a relegation battle was not an easy environment for the youngster to come into, he gained a regular starting spot by the end of the campaign, even scoring in the 2-2 draw against champions Real Madrid on the final day.
The summer unsurprisingly brought further interest from different LaLiga clubs, with SD Eibar winning the battle to get him on loan for the 2020-21 campaign, and he joined the Ipurua club along with fellow Sevilla youngster Alejandro Pozo. Again, he has had to work hard to impress new boss Jose Luis Mendilibar, but the quick learner has gained many new admirers with both his dribbling and creative skills, and not shying away from hard work off the ball.
While nominally a left-winger who likes to take on his defender and get the ball into the penalty area, Gil has also played on the right side from where he can cut inside and link with teammates. This versatility and willingness to learn have also seen him fielded in a number 10 position for Eibar. He was especially impressive in October’s 1-0 victory over his ‘parent’ club Sevilla, which was no doubt a bitter-sweet occasion for all involved. The celebrations were more open as he bamboozled Real Betis defenders in a 2-0 victory over the Andalusian capital’s ‘other’ team in late November.
At international level, Gil’s progress has also been smooth. He won a European U-19 championship with Spain in summer 2019, with Manchester City’s Ferran Torres and Huesca’s Sergi Gomez as teammates. Since progressing to the Under-21s this autumn, he outshone Barcelona’s Pedri to be named man of the match in a Euro qualifiers victory over the Faroe Islands in November.
Gil does not turn 20 until next February, by which time he is likely to have further established himself as the most exciting attacking threat in Eibar’s current team. Looking longer-term, many at Sevilla feel that they already have a long-term successor to Navas, now 35, as a locally born standard bearer in their side. For the moment though, LaLiga’s latest rising star has his head down, eye on the ball, and is fully focused on making the most of every opportunity he gets.