Garitano “Our Goal At Bilbao Athletic Is To Develop Players For The First Team”
Gaizka Garitano has plenty to live up to in his second season in charge of Bilbao Athletic. Last year he managed to lead the Katxorros to one of the best campaigns in history and entered the promotional playoffs. This summer has seen several key players leave due to age or promotion and there is a new generation of Lions ready for their chance. Before starting their preseason on Thursday, Garitano spoke to the media and said that the most important thing is preparing players for the first team.
“You always start a new season with enthusiasm. I’m in a good place to work and I like to work with young players. We hope to continue with what we achieved last season. We have new players, so it can be difficult at first, but there is hope. It’s true that we had a very good season last year and it will be difficult to match it. The important thing is that we are seeing our players go to the first team and that is the goal. You want to be competitive, but our goal is to develop players. This summer there are several players training with the first team, which brings me satisfaction. The less that come back to Bilbao Athletic, the better for me and the club. That is the goal.”
This year’s team will look a lot different. Key players are gone and will be replaced with others from the youth system that are much younger and lack experience competing at this level. Still, Garitano is optimistic and excited about the upcoming campaign because developing young talent is his biggest motivation.
“We have to get players used to winning at a young age so that they can succeed in the first team. We were very competitive last year and won a lot of matches, which is the second most important thing. It can’t be forgotten that our goal is to develop players for the first team. Last year our two center-backs, Óscar Gil and Unai Bilbao, were the most experienced and oldest, but this year the age will decrease. There will be players 3 or 4 years younger and we have the challenge of helping them improve. There is a new generation of players coming from the youth system and Basconia and they have desire to improve and get closer to the first team. That is what motivates me as a coach.”
In closing, Garitano discussed his relationship with new Athletic manager, Eduardo Berizzo. He said that the two have already become close and that he thinks Toto can bring success to the team. He also touched on the signings of Yuri Berchiche and Ander Capa, who he has coached in the past, stating that they will be great additions at the San Mamés.
“I have competed against Berizzo, he’s an excellent coach. As a person he is very polite and attentive. We have a good relationship and are working towards the same goal, serving Athletic, which is above all else. Athletic has made good signings this summer. I know some of them and they will contribute great things to the team. They are good professionals and excellent people. They fit the philosophy of the club and I have no doubt that they have the level to play for Athletic.”
It is going to be difficult to replicate the success of last season, especially with so many key players having left. That being said, there will be several talented young players in the squad this year and Garitano has proven that he can get the best out of his team. At the end of the day youth development is the most important goal and Bilbao Athletic has continued to prepare starlets for the first team at an incredible rate. There is always reason to be excited about the future and Garitano’s team should another strong season.