Rico: We Want To Finish The Season In The Best Way Possible
After four consecutive seasons of playing in Europe, Athletic Club will be watching from home next season. The Lions had their hopes shattered when they lost to Real Sociedad last weekend and, with only three games remaining, there doesn’t seem to be much left to play for. Midfielder Mikel Rico took the time to address the media on Thursday and discussed the fact that the team still wants to finish strong. Everyone understands the importance of representing Athletic and that is enough motivation for the players going into Saturday’s match against Real Betis.
“We want to finish the season in the best way possible. In football you are always playing for something, you always have something to prove because there is always something at stake. We have to try and play three good games. We all want to play. There are a lot of players in the team and representing Athletic is important enough if we are looking for a reason to give our all. Transfers? I try to isolate myself from what is said in the media. I don’t really know anything that has been said. I just want to focus on playing my best football, but I recognize that reinforcements are necessary.”
Rico went on to praise Real Betis who have had one of their best seasons in recent memory. The Beticos have already qualified for the Europa League and have been one of the strongest sides in Spain. The Athletic midfielder knows that it will be very difficult to take three points at the San Mamés, but also believes that the team can learn a lot from how this season has unfolded.
“Real Betis has had a good season and are in good form. They are playing with confidence and with the idea that they will fight to the death. They are really enjoying a good time. They like to have the ball so if we press them it could be an entertaining match. It is going to take us a lot to get three points at the San Mamés. We recognize that this season hasn’t been what we wanted it to be, but it can be a time of teaching. It can serve us in the following year and remind us that it isn’t easy to qualify for Europe even though it has been routine for us lately.”
In closing, Rico brushed off rumors that he could be one of the players leaving in the summer, saying that he is only focused on working hard and helping the club be as successful as possible. He says that the blame for this season ultimately falls on the players, but that doesn’t mean that the coaching staff doesn’t carry responsibility as well.
“I’ve been here for five seasons. The fans know me well and I’ll continue working my hardest like always. I don’t know what the future holds, but I don’t see this season as a failure just because we didn’t qualify for Europe. If we can’t compete for Europe over the next few years then that will tell us a lot, but hopefully we will be back in it next season. Ziganda? I think he has done well the whole year. I had a good feeling about the season but things haven’t gone as expected. I think the responsibility should be shared among the entire staff here, but the largest blame is on the players. We have not played at our best level.”
Saturday’s match against Real Betis is going to be interesting. Quique Setien has already admitted that he will rest a few key players ahead of next weekend’s Seville Derby against Sevilla, while Athletic will also be without the likes of Raúl García, Oscar De Marcos, and Mikel Balenziaga. Pride seems to be the only thing left for the Lions to play for, but the players remain serious about the fact that they want to win the three remaining games to give the fans something to be happy about going into the summer.