Athletic Club Legend Dani Ruiz Bazan Talks Aritz Aduriz And The Basque Derby
Daniel Ruiz Bazan, affectionally known as Dani, is a living legend and one of the most important players in Athletic Club history. The striker from Sopuerta featured in over 300 matches and helped the Lions win back-to-back La Liga titles in 1983 and 1984. Today he is still a massive Athletic fan and recent spoke with several media outlets ahead of the Basque Derby this Saturday. As one of the best strikers to have graced the San Mamés, Dani gave his thoughts on Aritz Aduriz who he says deserves a statue alongside Pichichi.
“Well, Aduriz is having a bit of a reflection of what happened to me. When you reach an age and the team isn’t doing well in the league, then the coach is going to tests some other players. It is a normal thing. When I was in my last year with Clemente he took advantage of me in certain games, sometimes he gave me a rest, and in others he only gave me a partial game. But like I said, it is normal. When you are at that age you have to take advantage but also protect yourself. I believe that Aduriz, who has one more year on his contract, is a player who can give you a lot and has shown that he is still the best striker we have. I think that we should put another statue beside Pichichi of Aduriz because he has saved Athletic many times.”
When asked about how the fans have responded to such a disappointing season, the 66-year-old admitted that they want to see Athletic competing against the best every year. However, with the club holding to such unique and special values he believes that fans also have to accept that there will be some negative years like the one that is currently being endured.
“The fans of Athletic are very warm. It seems like every year they want the team to be equal or better than the previous and sometimes it isn’t like that. We are coming from an era of success with Valverde and we were always in Europe. But the change of coach, the serious injuries, and the slow start have come together to make things grow from bad to worse. I know the fans are ready for the summer, but real fans of Athletic must feel that we aren’t the team who have won the fourth most league titles, but that we are at the top because we are the only ones who have won them with out own people. That is why there are good years and bad and you have to accept it.”
Regardless of how the season has unfolded, Dani believes that the current team is still extremely talented. The base, built by Ernesto Valverde, is still intact and many young players have carved out their own roles as well. He understands the frustration from the fans but expects the club to refocus and get back on the right track after the current season comes to a close.
“I believe that this is a good team. There are great players with promising youngsters like Kepa, Nuñez, Yeray, and Córdoba, to which I must add that Valverde’s strong base is still there. It hasn’t disappeared. For the next year we have to refocus and try to get things right from the start. Am I worried about the negative attitude of the fans? Yes, but it is normal. The fans will always respond to what the team is doing. If things aren’t going well, the season is bad. On top of that you play a game on Monday night and, since there is nothing at stake, the fans don’t show up. There is no incentive.”
In closing, the former striker said that he always thinks the Basque Derby is a huge deal no matter how the two clubs are doing individually. There is always pride to play for and fans will take it extremely seriously. That being said, he doesn’t think that former Real Sociedad defender Iñigo Martinez should have talked about growing up as an Athletic fan right before the big game, but should have waited until afterwards to open up. Dani is hopeful that it won’t cause problems at the Anoeta.
“I think the Derby is always a big deal. Both clubs and fans will want to come out on top and many people will be invested in the outcome as if something was out stake. Statistically, the team that plays at home as a slight advantage, but I think it is more about who takes the initiative, who is calmer, and what the referee does. There are many factors that influence the game. Iñigo Martinez’s recent comments about being an Athletic fan since he was a kid? It is good to see a player be truthful with their feelings, but it probably didn’t come at the most appropriate time, not on the eve of this match in Donosti. Just because he can take the backlash, the whistles, doesn’t mean it can’t harm the team like we’ve seen with Gerard Pique and the National Team. I hope it doesn’t cause problems, but personally I would have made those statements after the game, which is always gentler and less problematic.”
Saturday’s Derby presents a great opportunity for Athletic Club to give the fans something to be excited about. Walking into a hostile Anoeta with Real Sociedad fans still raw over Iñigo Martinez switching sides makes this match highly dramatic and an Athletic win would be absolutely huge. Sadly, the Lions will likely be without Aritz Aduriz who is still nursing a muscle injury, meaning Iñaki Williams will once again feature as the striker. No matter who is on the pitch it is still the Basque Derby and you won’t want to miss this one.