It has not been an easy for Athletic Club forward Sabin Merino. After being promoted to the first team last season and becoming a regular face on the pitch, he has barely played this year due to several injuries. On Sunday, he gave an exclusive interview with Alfonso Herran of AS and discussed his difficult year. He said that it was very odd for him to spend so much time on the sideline and that he is ready to be back on the pitch after returning to training last week.
“In the last 11 months I have had four injuries. A muscle, then sports hernia, then shoulder, then I returned and hurt my knee. They are four very different injuries which have nothing to do with each other. That is why I am calm, although on the other hand I haven’t had continuity. Until the game with Granada last season I had hardly had any injuries in my career. I was playing my best of the season and has scored four goals in a month before that injury. The two seasons at Basconia and then the two seasons at Bilbao Athletic, I played at least 34 games. I’m not used to injuries. I’m finally fine again.”
Merino was asked about the biggest transition to the Primera and said that the intensity and quickness is difficult to get used to. However, he believes that working hard will help you reach your dreams and that all he wants after debuting is to play regularly like last season.
“The intensity of the Primera you don’t see in other levels. There is no time to think, you must do everything very fast. With hard work you can achieve goals. This season the injuries hampered me, but I will continue working and hope that I get back to playing like I was. There is still time to catch up in training and I have to take advantage of that. My dream was to debut for Athletic and I have done that. Now I want to enjoy playing again. The only thing I want is to have moments like last year.”
When asked about his friend Asier Villalibre filling in for him this season, Merino had a lot of praise for the 19-year-old. Merino went on to say that there is a lot of competition within the first team and that it helps everyone continue to improve and step up.
“He is great. It is normal because the competition in the team is strong. If you do not give your best someone will come in that will. You have to earn your minutes. There is so much competition in my position, just look at Susaeta and how many minutes he has played. All the attacking positions are deep. You are competing with Inaki, Lekue, and even Aduriz and Raul Garcia are in the way. We always try to help each other and make each other better. The game is getting more physical, but there are plenty of other players who have different qualities. Every player is different.”
In closing, the 25-year-old was asked about the future of Ernesto Valverde and if he thought Cuco Ziganda could take his place. Merino also mentioned that he wants to spend the rest of his career at Athletic Club and has no plans of going anywhere else in the future.
“I was very comfortable with him and I have been comfortable with Ernesto. We are in a great time right now and we will see if we can get back to Europe. My career? I have a contract until 2019 and I’m not thinking beyond then, of course. I hope that I do not go anywhere else and that I can spend my whole career here. I would like to stay here for a long time.”
Since being promoted, Sabin Merino has scored 7 goals in 38 matches. He has had quite a few big moments and the hope is that the injuries are now behind him. He recently returned to training and will be available for next weekend’s game against Osasuna at El Sadar. With the summer right around the corner, he will have plenty of time to get back into playing shape before the new season begins.