The last few years have been a whirlwind for Iker Muniain. After tearing his ACL, the Lezama product found it hard to be the same player that he once was but last season was able to turn things around and play at a very high level. In a recent interview with Radio Marca, the 24-year-old was asked if he is playing the best football of his career and said that he definitely thinks that is the case. He also aid that he is happy to has played 334 games for the Lions but wants to raise that number as high as possible.
“I was asked a short while ago and I answered that yes, this could be the best moment and form of my career. I am finding myself at a good level and I think I started the season quite well, with the spark that characterizes me and how I play with the ball. I think I am at my best and I hope I am able to continue this form. Having played in 334 matches with Athletic is a nice figure and I hope to increase that as much as possible. The more years you play the more experience you have. Knowing your options, what decisions to make, what to do with the ball…that is what the years give you. I’ve seen a significant leap these last two years and I am happy and playing with the same desire.”
Muniain went on to say that being one of Athletic’s captains is a very huge honor and one that he takes a lot of pride in, especially after a difficult injury that was hard to overcome. He also took a moment to praise new manager Kuko Ziganda whom he believes has given the team a fresh perspective and renewed energy going forward.
“Wearing the Athletic captain’s armband is something to be proud of and a huge responsibility for representing such a great and historic club. Being out so long makes it hard to come back as the same player. You lose speed, timing, and rhythm. I was afraid, but I was calm and just lacked that rhythm. Last season everything was better and I think I ended up at a fairly high level to end the year. I want to keep that going. Kuko has a lot of influence. He doesn’t just know the team, but the players individually. He has arrived after a long stage under Valverde and has come in with a lot of enthusiasm and renewed energy. It is an injection of freshness that the team has noticed. The start to the new season has been good and that gives us motivation to continue working hard and look forward to what is coming.”
When asked about the goals for this season, Muniain was quick to point out that every competition is important. That being said, he says that he team is dreaming of lifting the Europa League title and that the players know they have to take it one match at a time instead of looking too far down the road.
“The league should never be neglected because it is what every season is built around and qualifies you for Europe. It makes us able to compete for the Europa League title and we want that so much. The Europa League is the real objective because it is a competition in which we have shown that we can go very far, so for now we have to advance out of the group. The best way to forget being eliminated last year is to turn around and win the title, which would be amazing. You have to go slowly and carefully, we can’t afford surprises. Right now we start dreaming.”
In closing, the captain was asked about the club’s ongoing negotiations with Kepa Arrizabalaga, but Muniain stated that he doesn’t know how things are going. He hopes that the goalkeeper will renew because he has been an important role in the team’s recent success. Also, Muniain recognizes that it is hard to sign outside players and praised Ander Capa who will be returning from Eibar next summer.
“I have no idea how the negotiations with Kepa are going. There has been a lot of talking and hopefully he will renew because he is a great goalkeeper with a big future that can help us a lot. The fans have wanted to see him in goal at the San Mamés since he was very young at Lezama. The fans have fallen in love with Kepa. We can also praise Herrerín because he is playing at an impressive level. The goal is very well covered. The lack of signings does not concern us. We are used to the fact that there are very few options in the type of market that we have. The club has clear ideas and the current squad already has a lot of quality. The best signings of the last few years are those who have come from Lezama. Ander Capa is a good signing that can bring us a lot of positive things next season. He has had a huge progression in recent years and we are happy that he will be joining us.”
Iker Muniain and Athletic Club will be back in action on 10 September when they will host newly promoted Girona at the San Mamés. Former Athletic players Gorka Iraizoz and Jonas Ramalho, who currently play for Girona, will be welcomed back to Bilbao for what will be a very special reunion. The Lions will be hoping for earn three more points and continue their strong start to the La Liga season.