Talking Lezama With Javi Martin
Inside Athletic had the honor of speaking with Javi Martin of LaCanteraDeLezama.com where we discussed the club’s youth academy, its importance, and several factors from Bilbao Athletic’s first season under Gaizka Garitano. Be sure to follow Javi on twitter @CanteraJavi and, as always, you can find all of the best news and information on Lezama @canteradelezama. We hope you enjoy this exclusive interview and we want to thank Javi for his valuable time and exceptional analysis.
In your opinion, what do you think sets Lezama apart from other football academies?
The unique philosophy that the club has, even though it is a difficult road to reach the elite. We can see players as they grow from children and, subsequently, develop a broad trajectory in the first team. Lezama, apart from being a football school that develops many players for the first team, tries to instill values and ultimately form players into people. That is something that has been passed down from generation to generation since its creation in 1971 and we cannot lose that because it gives us a different identity than others.
In your experience, what has led to Lezama being so successful at developing young footballers?
The peculiar philosophy of playing with players born or trained in the Basque Country leads us to bet on young footballers and give them the opportunity to play at an elite level. There will undoubtedly be those who are better are worse, but the young players at Athletic can always have their chance if there is a need in the first team. The key to success is the many people who have spent years working at Lezama and training the young players. We must work to seek excellence and continue improving in order to never lose the key to success in Lezama.
Players like Gorka Guruzeta, Iñigo Vicente, and Peru Nolaskoain played in a few different positions with Bilbao Athletic last season. What do you think are their best psositions?
Guruzeta, despite being a footballer who plays up top, is very coordinated and has technical ability. He may be missing some things needed to play as a center-forward in the Primera. He can play in all attacking positions, but I think now his best position is as a playmaker.
Iñigo Vicente, for me, would be ideal as a second striker but not as a playmaker. Playing on the left wing has forced him to develop other qualities that will make him a more complete footballer, especially being involved in the collective work of the team. He has a lot of talent. He’s a magician with the ball at his feet and is able to see the moves that will break a defense. Plus, he can score goals.
Peru Nolaskoain has taken a leap in quality this season. He was a player who had opportunities closer to goal, but has played less in that position in order to improve in other areas. If playing alongside a defensive pivot, I think he is a player who can be creative as a midfielder.
Speaking of Bilbao Athletic, can you compare and contrast the team under Kuko Ziganda and now under Gaizka Garitano?
What they have in common is the fact that many footballers who have trained under them have ended up being better players. Ziganda’s seven years in Bilbao saw the team make it to two playoffs and achieve promotion. It was a wonderful time because his style was about being a daring team that wanted to control matches. This season Garitano has formed a very competitive side, qualifying for the playoffs and seeing the growth of many players. They are two great coaches who have demonstrated their knowledge and the ability to get players ready for the first team.
With Bilbao Athletic losing some key players from last year’s team, who needs to step up in their place next season?
It will depend on the ideas that Gaizka Garitano has and which direction he is taking the team. I have no doubt that they will return to be a competitive team regardless of who plays.
How do you think Eduardo Berizzo will evaluate young players competed to the way Ernesto Valverde and Kuko Ziganda evaluated them?
According to the needs of the first team, just like the previous coaches. Coming from a bad season there is a need to achieve short-term results in the form of transfers, but I hope there is a balance between the signings and young player who who will a chance with the first team.
Are there any rising stars that fans should be aware of right now?
There are very few superb players like Julen Guerrero, Muniain or Kepa, but I think one of the young players who can make the leap from Junveil A to Bilbao Athletic is Oihan Sancet.
What is your opinion on Julen Guerrero’s son signing with Real Madrid’s academy?
To me it seems like a logical decision since his family lives in Madrid and it gives him the opportunity to continue developing as a footballer at a great club that works well with their young players.
In your opinion, how does Lezama fit into the overall success of Athletic Club?
Lezama is the essence of Athletic and where all dreams of born. It is the fundamental pillar in which we continue to believe in and what we think makes us different from others. However, the current game makes you have to participate more and more in the “jungle business” of football.
Do you have any other thoughts or ideas about Lezama?
I am not one to give ideas, but I just hope and want Lezama to remain a reference point for all Bizkaian player and to be able to incorporate the best young players from the rest of the Basque territories…to innovate methodologies and for coaches to teach the basics of football. There is a project in progress with Lezama 2020 that will have a series of improvements that I think will help grow the club at the lower levels.