Kepa Arrizabalaga Has No Regrets About Rejecting Real Madrid To Stay At Athletic Club
Kepa Arrizabalaga endeared himself to Athletic fans in January when he rejected an offer to join Real Madrid in favor of staying at his boyhood club. The transfer saga had dragged on for weeks and the end result couldn’t have been better news for the Lions. Since then the 23-year-old has continued to establish himself as one of the top goalkeepers in La Liga and has even been called up to the Spain National Team for this summer’s World Cup. In a recent interview with AS he was clearly excited about participating in the historic tournament.
“We are aware that we have a good team, but we are cautious as well. Winning a World Cup is not easy and Spain have only ever done it once. There are a lot of great teams and always some surprises. We have to take it one step at a time. The fans are excited and in recent games I’ve felt their support. Our results and performances have brought that hope and excitement back.”
When asked about his relationship with fellow goalkeepers David De Gea and Pepe Reina, Kepa admitted that the trio are always trying to help each other improve. The Athletic star also praised defenders Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos for the role they play in the team, calling them vital parts of the team’s success.
“We [the goalkeepers] have a healthy relationship. Things are great between us and we are always trying to help each other. In the end we all have the same goal – to win the World Cup. Pique and Ramos are two of the best center-backs in the world and key players for Barcelona and Real Madrid. They are an incredible pairing and have been so for years. They will be one of our biggest strengths in the tournament. Myself? A year ago I was with the U21s but now I am more mature and have more experience. All aspects of my game are more polished. I’m the same, but a little better.”
The conversation then turned to Kepa’s club career when he was asked if going to the World Cup had any influence on his decision to stay at Athletic. He says that he was not thinking about it at the time, while also admitting that he thinks he had a good season even though the Lions struggled under Kuko Ziganda.
“I’m happy with the season I had, although it was not the best campaign for the team on a collective level. But I have the sense that I have come into this tournament in good form. I’m happy and ready to help. Although it is obvious that I wanted to be in the National Team and go to the World Cup, that was not part of my decision. I wasn’t thinking about it at the time.”
In closing, the Kepa was once again asked whether or not he regretted rejecting Real Madrid to stay at Athletic. The keeper remains firm that he is happy with his decision, while also admitting that it was very difficult to deal with all the media attention that he had at the time. It certainly isn’t something that a young player is prepared for.
“No, I don’t regret the decision. I’m happy at Athletic. It was a period in which there were so many rumors that it was on the front page every day. Those months I appeared in the media almost every day. It was a new situation; one that I had never experienced. I tried to learn from it because they don’t prepare you for that. They prepare you to play football.”
While Kepa is in Russia trying to help Spain win the World Cup, his Athletic teammates will soon be preparing for the new season. Eduardo Berizzo will start preseason training on 9 July as the Lions will be looking to quickly move past last year’s disappointing campaign. The Argentine has brought with him plenty of expectations and fans are hoping to see the team get back to their winning ways as soon as possible.