It has been a few months since Iñigo Martinez left Real Sociedad to sign with Athletic Club. The transfer sent shockwaves throughout the Basque Country and the wounds are still fresh for fans of La Real. Last weekend the Basque Derby took place at the Anoeta and all eyes were on Martinez as he returned to play against the club where he grew up. In a recent interview he admitted that he was strong enough to face the reaction and that he expected to be received with a lot of anger and negativity directed at him, but that he needed to focus on representing his new team.
“I went through hard times but luckily, mentally and personally, I’m strong enough to handle things. I tried to go about the decision [to leave] in the best way possible. You don’t like to go back after being there for so many years and be received that way, but it’s logical. I knew where the fans were coming from and what it was going to be like when I returned. I knew what was going to happen, I was aware of everything. I have a lot of respect for the fans, but football goes on and I have to focus on giving my best for Athletic.”
Martinez was asked about the fact that La Real fans threw money with his face on it at him when he exited the Athletic bus, but the defender tried to dodge the question. After being asked a third time if he wanted to pick some up as a souvenir he said, “I have always been told that money should never be thrown on the ground”. In closing, he addressed the fact that he grew up an Athletic fan and that he didn’t think some of the chants directed at him were appropriate.
“Obviously I am from Biscay and as a child it is normal to be a fan of Athletic. The people you are around everyday are fans, so it’s just logical. I arrived at Real very young and always gave everything for the club and for the fans. I am happy to have been there and to have had their support. I had turned the page and I have to focus on what I am doing now. I knew how I was going to be received, but I don’t think chants like ‘Iñigo die’ have a place in football.”
Since joining Athletic Club in January Iñigo Martinez has been one of the best players in the team. He has already become a fan favorite, partly due to the fact that he left Real Sociedad, but also because of the way he plays the game with passion and a willingness to always put his body on the line. Athletic and Real Sociedad will not play each other again until next season, but it is safe to say that the Martinez’s decision will still be a huge issue for years to come.