Since earning promotion to the first team back in 2015 Iñigo Lekue has worked hard to carve out a place within the squad. So far he has enjoyed success with Athletic but this season has not been good for the club who were used to winning under Ernesto Valverde and have had to adjust to life under Kuko Ziganda. In a recent interview with Iñaki Ugalde of Mundo Deportivo, the 23-year-old admitted that things have been difficult, but that the players are committed to improving every day.
“It has not been easy. We are not getting the results we want and we haven’t played with consistency. Since we have been eliminated from Europe, we hope to find our best form in the final games of the league and finish the season well. We want to earn three points at a time and finish higher. Each season is a different world and the last few years we have done very well. This year things haven’t been the same, but I don’t know why. In the end this is a team and each one must individually work to improve.”
A lot of talk among fans has revolved around Ziganda and a potential coaching change in the summer. When asked about this Lekue mentioned that the team will remain much the same and said that he doesn’t know how much blame should be placed on the coach alone.
“I don’t believe changing the coach changes everything because the team is still the team, although these same players achieved more than we have this season. It is true that the last few years under Valverde went well and this year is not like that. I don’t know why things have been so different but it comes down to the players. The team is almost the same, so is the environment and the dynamics of what we do, but this season things have been different.”
Lekue played under Ziganda for a few season at Bilbao Athletic and revealed that the manager has been very much the same person since taking over the first team. On the other hand, Lekue says that he has personally changed a lot and is enjoying the fact that he can play in multiple positions which helps the team.
“He has been much the same. He reached the first team because he has been a successful manager. In the first team he has continued to do the same things and he has been the same person. I have changed quite a bit since my promotion. In the top flight things are different and a lot more demanding. You have to improve day by day and because the competition is doing the same. It is clear that I can play in several positions and I am more than willing to adapt to one or another. Playing further forward means you have to play a completely different type of game, but I am comfortable forward or back in defense. I’ll do what I need to do to help the team.”
In closing, the Lezama product was very open about the fact that he can never settle now that he has reached the first team. He may have a contract for five more years, but he knows that he must be constantly improving to keep his place. Representing Athletic means everything to him and that is why this season has been so difficult to accept.
“I renewed my contract until 2023 but you can never feel settled. The club bet on me and I am very happy to continue here, to be able to play, and to be able to continue wearing the Athletic shirt. I can never dream of getting comfortable because there is always competition. This season has been difficult. You never like to lose, but losing while representing Athletic is doubled because this club means so much. We are ready for the final nine games and hope to turn things around for the fans.”
Iñigo Lekue and Athletic Club will be back in action next weekend when they will host Celta Vigo at the San Mamés. The Lions are currently eight points off of the last European spot in the table with only nine games remaining. Reaching that mark will be extremely difficult, but the players have refused to give up hope and want to finish the season in a way that makes fans happy.