On loan for the 2018-19 season from fellow LaLiga club Villarreal, Unal has been an important figure in Valladolid’s impressive campaign so far, despite being just 21 years old.
Success has often come early for Unal. 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 Unal 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 a permanent transfer in the summer of 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 led to Villarreal generously loaning the forward to their neighbours in October 2017, and Unal also scored on his debut for Los Granotas against Girona. He returned to Villarreal in January 2018 and found the net in his first game back. Amid all the movement, the tall frontman finished his first season with six goals in LaLiga, including a memorable quick-fire double to beat Atletico Madrid 2-1 at the Estadio de la Ceramica.
Last August, Unal 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 Celta Vigo and Levante were key as Sergio Fernandez’s team began picking up points.
Recent games have been a bit more difficult for Valladolid, with Unal’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 Unal remains a vital member of the team.
Such progress in LaLiga has been followed very closely back home in Turkey, where Unal’s father Mesut played professionally for Bursaspor after representing his country at youth level. Enes also had much success at under-age 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 Unal 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 in 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.