Markel Etxeberria is one of the most well known names to come through Lezama in recent memory. The right-back made a name for himself at the youth level before going on to train on several occasions under Marcelo Bielsa. Since then, he has found it difficult to break into the first team due to the competition in the squad. Last season he spent the year on loan at Real Valladolid and, despite not playing regularly, he views the time away as a good thing. Speaking with Javi Beltran of AS, he says he has matured a lot.
“I’m doing well. I would have liked to play more, but I’m maturing a lot and I’m comfortable. I have played in multiple positions, first at right-back then some on the left side. Despite moving around I am growing as a player. I began playing as a winger when I was younger but was eventually moved to right-back and that is where I am at my best and at ease. Similar to Oscar De Marcos.”
Etxeberria was also asked about his ability to push up and join the attack, and he was quick to point out that his coach at Valladolid has taught him a lot about timing his runs and knowing when to go forward and when to stay in defense.
“I like to push up, but the coach has taught me how to judge my runs a little more. You have to know when to attack and when not to, so it’s a choice in every moment. Now we will face Cadiz hoping for promotion and I will get to play against Ager Aketxe and Gorka Santamaria. I’m excited. We haven’t talked about it yet, but we will soon. We will go all out to win.”
Due to not playing regularly, there was a chance for Etxeberria to leave in January but he says that he decided against it in hopes of proving himself at Valladolid. Even though he was not able to gain more playing time, he is happy with the decision he made.
“There was a chance to leave in January to play more, but I thought it over and decided to stay because the coach trusted me to turn it around. I was not quite able to do that but I am happy that I decided to stay because this year has given me a lot of experience. You do suffer more sitting on the bench. You get nervous about not being able to help the team, but you just have to work harder.
In closing, the 22-year-old was asked about Cuco Ziganda taking over as the manager of Athletic Club. He says that Ziganda absolutely deserves the opportunity, while also revealing that the plan is for him to go out on loan again next year.
“He deserves this opportunity. He has had very good seasons at Bilbao Athletic, always in the playoff or close. He will do very well. They want me to be loaned next year and I accept it. I’m really looking forward to going out for another year. I am a better player today because of this year. Defensively I have improved a lot and I’m more mature. I think the best thing for me is to go on loan again next season. The truth is that there are three players performing at a high level at my position in the first team, so I need regular minutes to keep improving.”
Etxeberria has a lot of competition in the first team in Oscar De Marcos, Eneko Boveda, and Inigo Lekue. It will be difficult to carve out a path under Cuco Ziganda, but the Lezama product is committed to working hard and continuing to improve as a footballer. Right now there is no word on where he will likely be playing next season, but there are sure to be many interested suitors once the transfer window officially opens.