Jonas Ramalho is a historical figure at Athletic Club. After growing up at Lezama, the defender became the first ever black player to put on the Athletic shirt, paving a road for players like Inaki Williams. Sadly, a disastrous knee injury and competition at the first team saw him join Girona on loan from 2013-2015 before making the permanent switch last summer. Over the weekend, Girona earned their promotion to the Primera for the first time in their 87 year history as a club. Ramalho spoke with DEIA, and made it clear that coming back from his knee injury wasn’t easy.
“It is impossible not to think about what happened in the previous years and the fear of it happening again. You always have that fear, but truth is that you will never be successful thinking like that. I did not look back at the past and I wanted to compete at a high level. The truth is I recovered well and assimilated perfectly from the first moment I came back. I put in the hard work and it paid off for me.”
Ramalho went on to say that he thinks he had his best ever season as a professional footballer. The goal from the beginning of the season was to earn promotion and they have accomplished that special feat.
“I think I played very well indeed. This is a club that I already knew and that made everything easier. I made the decision to come back here because I liked the project. On a personal level, I am very happy. I have played thirty games and the coach trusted me a lot. In the end we earned promotion and that is exciting. From the beginning of this season the goal was to fight for promotion. We have had several years with that goal with the same system and coach. The hard work has been reflected in reaching our goal. This is possibly my best season as a professional. In the lower levels there were also times when I played even more, but not at such a high level. I’m happy about how I have played and what I have shown, especially since the knee injury. Now I want to continue improving and play at an even higher level.”
The 23-year-old was then asked about new Athletic manager Cuco Ziganda who trained him at Bilbao Athletic. Ramalho says that Ziganda relates well to the players and that he absolutely deserves the promotion to the first team.
“Ziganda is a great coach. I’ve known him for a long time and he communicates well with the players. I have a good relationship with him. He’s always been very good to me and I am very happy for him. He deserves this opportunity that the club has given him to train the first team and I believe he will do very well. The good thing is that he knows the entire team and club. That is essential for the team to do well.”
In closing, Ramalho was asked if his time at Athletic has officially come to an end but he refused to close the door on the possibility. He technically isn’t tied to the Lions anymore, but wants to prove to everyone that he has the quality to play at the San Mames.
“You never know. I trained and grew up there, but now I belong to Gerona. I want to improve as a player and play in the Primera. I will say that you can never close any for because you never know what can happen. I have always wanted to play for Athletic and I want to prove to everyone that I have the level to play at Athletic. Have I thought about the fact that I will play at the San Mames next year? Truthfully, no I hadn’t thought of it. I really haven’t had time to think about much yet. I can’t imagine it.”
Jonas Ramalho and Girona will play in the Primera next season for their first time in history. When the Catalan club comes to the San Mames it is sure to be a special match for the 23-year-old. If Ramalho is able to continue playing at a such a high level, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him linked with a move back to his boyhood club down the road.