Iker Muniain Says Injuries Have Made Him Stronger And Is Excited About His Move To Mediapunta
At just 25 years old Iker Muniain is already a seasoned veteran. The boy from Pamplona made his first debut when he was just 16 and has gone on to feature in 348 games while also becoming a team captain. The last few years have been difficult as he suffered two torn ACLs, but he believes that they have made him stronger. Speaking with the media during Athletic’s trip to Holland Muniain said that he feels stronger than ever.
“Serious injuries like the ones I’ve had make things click in your head. It affects everything and changes the way you face things, the way you prepare, and your commitment. They are never good, but in this aspect they have been good for me because I feel stronger and more complete than I was earlier in my career. In a way the injuries have helped me grow.”
Muniain made his return from injury late last season and played at a very high level. When asked if he was surprised by how strong he was at the end of the year the 25-year-old admitted that he expected it of himself after working so hard to come back. Now the injuries are in the past and he’s focused on the upcoming season.
“I was not surprised because I worked a lot and knew I would have the opportunity to play my best. You always have the doubt of how you will perform, but I was always confident in myself. I visualized my return and that helped everything. The suffering is forgotten. It was hard, but at the same time it’s nice to know that you were able to come back from the injury stronger. Now I look forward to preparing the best way possible, minimizing risks, and continuing at a high level.”
Athletic are now under the leadership of manager Eduardo Berizzo who is hoping to bring the team back to European qualification. Muniain says that the new staff have been intense, but that they are working hard to make sure that every players understands the system.
“The beginning of the season always brings uncertainty of how you will start. We are preparing for what we want to be a good season and the goal is to play again in Europe. The first contacts with the coach and his coaching staff have been great. They are very intense, but doing well. They are hardworking people who want to get us in tune with their system in the best way possible. We are adapting to their methods with the greatest enthusiasm. We have a nice mixture of veterans and fresh faces that can help us have a great season.”
The Lezama product admitted that not playing in European qualifiers this summer could make things easier on the team. The players will have more time to adapt to Berizzo’s system without the pressure of their season starting earlier, but their goal is to be back in Europe next year.
“This season is different than other years because we aren’t playing in Europe to start the season so we have more time to adapt to the coach’s ideas. It is good to start fresh and the new signings have brought competition that makes the team even better. Of course the goal is to qualify for Europe, to be as high in the table as possible, and to try to win every game.”
One of the biggest changes that Berizzo has made to the team is moving Muniain from the left-wing to a central role. The 25-year-old says that he is very comfortable playing as a Mediapunta, highlighting the fact that he can be more impactful in that role. He is also entering the final year of his contract, but says that he and Athletic have a great relationship and he’s only thinking about the start of the new season right now.
“I always try to play my best, to vindicate myself and reinvent myself so that I can give my best for the team. This is a position where I feel very comfortable. Anyone who knows a bit about football can see that. I like to move between the lines, receive the ball, turn, and attack. I’m available to the coach and will play wherever he decides. I believe very strongly that I am a leader. The players that have played more seasons have to help those who are coming up and be references for them. My contract? The club and I have a wonderful relationship. When there is something we will communicate it, but I don’t want to be focused on this right now. I’m focused on the preseason and having a good start to the campaign.”
The La Liga schedule was officially released on Tuesday and Athletic’s season will begin with a home game against Leganés on 19 August. That means the team has less than a month to prepare for the new campaign. Athletic have already shown excellent signs during their first two preseason friendlies, leaving many to believe that the Lions could be in for a huge year.