President Josu Urrutia “We Know That It Is A Privilege To Belong To Athletic Club”
Athletic President, Josu Urrutia, appeared before the media on Thursday to conduct his customary preseason press conference. As expected, he was immediately asked about Kepa Arrizabalaga’s decision to leave the club in order to sign with Chelsea and Urrutia admitted that it is hard to understand the choice. Still, the club is proud of their identity and what it represents.
“For those of us who are Athletic it is difficult to understand Kepa’s decision. We know that the path we have chosen limits us, but at the same time we know that it is a privilege to belong to this club which, for us, is the best team in the world. I found out he was leaving for Chelsea because one of their employees told me. I don’t think that’s good or bad. Without addressing anyone in particular, you have to review everything that was said during’s Kepa’s contract renewal process. I think the interests of many people have been exposed.”
The next topic of discussion surrounded Athletic’s interest in Mikel Oyarzabal. Urrutia made it clear that the Lions did not make any official offer to the player despite being interested. He went on to say that the club must look to sign the footballers who can best improve the squad, but that doesn’t always mean that there is a need to make hasty decisions.
“We haven’t made an offer to Oyarzabal. I say that loud and clear. But, as always, our obligation is to follow the players who can improve the squad. In the case of Oyarzabal and Merino, it never got to an advanced stage. Ander Herrera is another player that we have to follow, but there has been no contact. We have to focus on the players who are in the team. The transfer window is still open, but there isn’t always a sense of urgency.”
The club is also looking to extend the contracts of Iker Muniain and Alex Remiro, which the President took the time to address. There is no rush with Muniain’s new deal and calmness over Remiro’s future. He also admitted that Athletic had to financially compensate Elche after making the decision to recall Unai Simón from loan.
“The club is always working on renewals. With Iker Muniain we want him to be calm and settled after facing two major knee injuries. We will have time to discuss everything. Alex Remiro is a player who has a lot to prove. He spent last year in the second division and had a great season. Athletic has invested a lot in his training and I don’t think his situation has changed regarding his renewal. Calling back Unai Simón obviously means that we had to compensate Elche financially.”
Over the past decade Athletic have seen a handful of top players leave for European giants. Urrutia stated that it is a sign that the club is doing well to develop players and praised the work of Lezama. Losing high quality footballers is never desired, but it does show the growth of Athletic.
“The best teams come to sign players developed in Lezama, the only unique team that exists. That’s how you know things are being done right. Chelsea, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, and Juventus all come looking here. Something is being done right. There is no other time in the history of Athletic where the biggest clubs in Europe have come for so many of our players. It is a sign that we are doing well.”
In closing, President Urrutia reiterated that the club is in excellent financial standing. Besides ticket and merchandise sales, qualifying for Europe consistently has also brought in great revenue. He refused to discuss whether or not he will be running in the 2019 elections and chose to put the focus back on the team who are looking forward to starting their season on Monday.
“Economically we have always been in a good place these last seven years. Apart from tickets sales, being in Europe year after year brings money. Elections? This year is a lot like 2014. We aren’t thinking about that right now. We have a new coaching staff, four new signings in addition to Iñigo Martinez who arrived in January, and the return of two players who were away on loan. In short, we have about nine or ten new players and a new coaching staff that deserve to focus the energy on the new season.”
There is plenty of excitement surrounding Athletic after what has been an eventful summer. The hiring of new manager Eduardo Berizzo along with the signings of Yuri Berchiche, Dani García, Ander Capa, and Christian Ganea has brought hope and expectations back to the San Mamés. The season will officially begin on Monday for the Lions who will be looking to fight for their place in Europe again.