“We will do what is best for Athletic”
He knows the world of football perfectly. In different aspects too. He is now the athletic director of Athletic, a position that involves a lot of public exposure and a fair amount of criticism.
Were you surprised by Elizegi’s announcement regarding your decision not to run for office?
Yes, I was surprised. If he did, he did it thinking it was best at the time. Aitor is a person who has worked for many years, beyond any filias and phobias. He was very brave in a lot of things. The assemblies were very hard and he suffered a lot. He’s done a lot of good things, but most of the time we end up with the bad ones. The same will happen to me when I leave. More will be said about me for once I asked Nika (communications director) a question at a press conference than for anything I’ve done here; but it is so.
Will you try to close the renewal of Marcelino?
We have to do what we think is best for the club. We are very happy with Marcelino, a top trainer, and his team. He gives a spark to a team suited to Marcelino’s football. We will do what is best for Athletic.
Have you already started talking about renewal with Marcelino?
No. Marcelino is very careful, he knows what has happened these days and what he wants is peace of mind for the team to work. The rest will come.
Is he happy here?
He is delighted. Him and his group. These are people who have integrated very well not only in Lezama, but also in the way of life that we have in Bilbao.
Has Marcelino surprised you since you worked together?
It didn’t surprise me because from the first moment we had a very good feeling. We said the things we had to say to each other honestly and face to face. They had spoken to me about his methodology and on a personal level, he is a footballer like me. He’s soaked in everything.
Were you not advocating the continuity of Garitano first and then going up to Etxebe?
I gave my reports, the club made a profound decision and acted on it.
How are the renovations of De Marcos, Balenziaga, Dani García and Capa going?
Like every year. They are very good professionals and we have already started the conversations, as we did all these years ago, and as always calmly.
Is the Capa theme rooted?
In the same situation as the others. We started talking to him a long time ago, no deal was reached and now a lot of other things are happening including a pandemic. We asked you for a little time.
Follow the evolution of Imanol, Iñigo Vicente …
I am now an expert on the (anticipated) Dutch League. Iñigo (Córdoba) scored five goals. My obligation is to watch the matches in Mirandés, from the Netherlands… Things are going very well for Iñigo and he is surprising because he attacks, defends and shows that he has a goal.
Did Athletic touch Julen Jon Guerrero?
We have always been very attentive. I have a good relationship with the Guerrero family, we continue his career and see how he develops, but he has a contract with Real Madrid.
Are you worried about the Bilbao Athletic situation?
I am in a lot of pain because the boys are very young and some of them suddenly reach a better category than last year. We have potential and I am sure we will pass from the least to the most. It worries me that they started well and suddenly they have withdrawn a bit, but I am calm because they are a good team and they have a coach who is very hungry and very courageous. In the end, the results will come. Imanol is a trainer, that’s what he is.
Are alternating teams like Nico Serrano and Agirrezabala, for example, good?
It’s good, but stressful for them. It was for me and for the players who were going up and down at the time. Those in the dynamic of the first team are more stressed and rest less, but it has happened a lifetime. The second and third teams are very affected by the first team.
In which way?
The first team tells me tomorrow that I need three players and then the chain begins. We don’t want complaints from anyone, but everyone to focus on their job. Going up and down is difficult, but you have to do it.
Has Athletic’s environment changed since being a player?
No, I don’t see it that way. You criticize when you have to criticize and applause is given when you have to. What you sometimes notice is that the criticism isn’t just because you did something right or wrong, but because you liked someone or not. When criticism is constructive, you have to accept it and, in addition, you have to learn from it. I don’t waste a lot of time with other people.
Like those of those who say they work little, that they don’t put in their hours?
If I explained day to day it would be nice, but there are things that don’t need to be explained so much either. Good professionals already know what sports management is, the work of Ayarza, Bombín in the methodology… I know what we are doing, which is the same as my predecessors did: work a lot and spend a lot hours in Lezama, why not it’s only the first team. It’s every day.
Former President Macua said a few days ago that he believed Athletic did not need a sporting director.
It seems to me a very necessary number. There must be someone in charge of the sporting part of the club because many decisions have to be made every day. You have to talk with the players of the first team, with the coach of the first team, discuss with them and in the career, I do not even tell him. There are over 400 children here, many parents, many representatives. Someone has to be in charge. In the end, everything goes through my table. From a boy we brought the child to the first shift. Yes, there has to be someone running the sport and taking responsibility for mistakes and successes.
What did you think of the resignation of Ricardo Hernani, director of the club’s sports commission?
Ricardo, who has done a very important job, besides having a lot of personality, has a different conception of a lot of things because he comes from another world. It was very good that he added his way of seeing football. Now Iker Goñi has entered and we continue to work as always.
Will there be other cases like Remiro and Areso over the years?
Of course, because you don’t always come to agreements. When you think you’re putting everything on your side and the player thinks they’re putting everything on their side… It’s like life itself. We are also here to make some decisions which are sometimes difficult and make you angry, but there are things we cannot achieve.
Do you support the idea of the global career suggested by Jon Ander de las Fuentes?
We are very happy with the career we have in Biscay and we continue to work a lot with the inhabitants of Navarre, Alava and Gipuzkoa… It is our career and we have lived from this career and will continue to live for many years. Now that someone is gradually opening up some discussions with the partners, it would be good to clarify things. It is very important that we understand that philosophy is what it is, although here it has sometimes been stretched.