It wasn’t supposed to be like this. That phrase pretty much sums up Kuko Ziganda’s first season in charge of the Athletic Club first team. The 51-year-old had been groomed for the job for six years while managing Bilbao Athletic and everyone knew that he was going to take over when Ernesto Valverde decided to leave. Even though Ziganda didn’t have a ton of experience in the Primera fans were expecting, and hoping, that he could keep the team going the same direction as the last few years.
The beginning of the year was promising, with the defense playing well. However, losing Iker Muniain to a torn ACL and significant struggles in the midfield saw the Lions take some major steps backwards. Luckily, Athletic have been able to stay alive in the Europa League and are still in contention to qualify for European competition again, although that will be very difficult to achieve.
Regardless, fans are not happy with Ziganda. Athleticzales are now used to competing for a top seven spot in the table every year and, seeing as this is arguably the deepest Athletic squad in a decade, the frustration is understandable. The displeasure has now reached the point where it is manifesting itself at the San Mamés. During the weekend’s 2-1 win over Malaga fans could be heard chanting “Kuko vete ya” right behind the bench. Everyone heard it, including the manager.
In a recent interview Ziganda stated that he is only focused on one game at a time and that he is “at the disposal of the club”. His demeanor lately is clearly that of someone who knows that he is walking a thin line and that the time is definitely running out. Sources close to the club have said that President Josu Urrutia will keep Ziganda at his post for the remainder of the year but that there will be a search for a new manager during the summer. The hot seat is starting to burn.
For now Ziganda is living on borrowed time. The goal for the rest of the season will be to stay alive in the La Liga table and to go as far as possible in the Europa League. The Lions look to be safe of relegation so that will bring some comfort. At this point fans are already looking ahead to next season and the addition of players like Ander Capa and possibly Dani Garcia, as well as the return of Iker Muniain. There sure is a lot to be excited about and it looks to be almost certain that Kuko Ziganda will not be around when the next season kicks off. Things have not gone according to plan and that means changes are coming.