Julen Guerrero: Athletic Is My Life
Athletic legend Julen Guerrero has taken a different path to life after football. While many former Lions are working for the club, Guerrero is currently a part of the media. In an interview with Macu Briones of Marca, he stated that he cannot rule out returning to Athletic one day in a coaching role. He has a lot of respect for his former teammates that are still at the club and wished them the best of luck.
“I miss the field more than anything else. Time will tell. The important thing is to be prepared. If that moment arrives and the situation is right, then anything is feasible. Those working at the club have a lot to do. I have the maximum respect for them and, being on the outside, I wish them all the best and all the support. The affection I have as a former player and part of the history of the club is special. I’m not there, but I talk about Athletic every day. The important thing for the club is to move forward, regardless of who is there.”
There have been rumors over the years of Guerrero potentially taking a coaching role, but he says that he did not want to move his kids around when they were younger. Now that they have grown, he may be open to taking a role at Athletic because the club is still very much a huge part of his life.
“Rumors have been coming out, but I did not want to move too far away because of my children. I wanted their studies to continue going well. To be in a different place every year would complicate their lives. I have prioritized stability for them and myself. But now they’ve reached a stage where they are maturing so I might be able to move a bit more. Having children that have grown gives me the possibility of having doors open to anywhere. Now may be the time. Athletic is my life and if they ever need me I will be there.”
When asked about Cuco Ziganda taking over as the first team manager, Guerrero says that he has done a fantastic job while overseeing Bilbao Athletic. Still, he recognizes that this will be a completely different job that will carry more attention. He believes that the Lions should be competing for Europe every season, but there will need to be increased depth to do so.
“He has been leading the reserves for many years now and, honestly, this step is what they had in mind from the first day he started. Surely he has been maturing all these years. You never know when the opportunity will come to you and now he’s got it. The reserves is a enjoyable place, with the kids that come to training every day with hunger and desire. That is a beautiful time. Now a lot will change. If you play well in the reserves but the results aren’t good, it isn’t quite as noticeable. But in the Primera, if you have two or three games without winning, the story will be everywhere. The team has to keep the mindset of being in Europe. It is never easy, but Athletic is economically well so they can keep a strong team together. Right now they have a strong squad with a lot of qualify. Depth is important as well, because you cannot count on just 12-14 players.”
In closing, the club legend was asked about the future of Aritz Aduriz who will likely not be playing football much longer. Inaki Williams and Asier Villalibre are the top options to eventually replace the striker, but Guerrero says that following the 36-year-old will not be easy.
“Inaki has the most experience, but he would have to adapt more to the position. He is a player who runs a lot and is in many places on the field. His game is very explosive. Some have maybe accused him of not scoring enough goals, but he is a fantastic player. He is still growing and developing as a forward. Villalibre, by his characteristics, is more of a true nine. But you have to be patient with him because asking anyone to do what Aduriz is doing is very difficult. It would be good for the coach to give him minutes to mature.”
Athletic Club will begin preseason training on 3 July as they prepare for the first leg of their Europa League qualifier on 27 July. This will be Cuco Ziganda’s first year in charge of the first team after six years leading Bilbao Athletic. After qualifying for European competition for four straight years, fans will be hoping for the Lions to keep the streak alive.