Iker Muniain Discusses His Switch To Midfield And Upcoming Contract Renewal
Iker Muniain has become one of the most important players for Athletic both on and off the pitch. At just 25 years old he’s already a team captain and is a reference point for everyone else that steps onto the field at the San Mamés. With the season finally underway he recently sat down for an exclusive interview with Iñaki Ugalde of Mundo Deportivo and expressed his joy at having scored the winning goal against Leganés.
“It was an intense week. We have started very well, with an emotional win against Leganés. Now, after getting the first three points, we want to continue adding points against Huesca. Scoring the winning goal was a huge joy, especially because of what it means to score at the last minute and earn the victory. We collected the points that we deserved. I don’t regret my celebration, even though I got a yellow card, because it was a big goal. Scoring in this league is very difficult and you have value it, especially when it decides the match and you see the fans explode with joy and emotion.”
Muniain went on to say that Athletic played with intensity the entire match which caused some fatigue issues at times. Still, the team was able to correct their mistakes and are now looking to learn and improve from those errors.
“We started with a lot of intensity to drown out Leganés who were waiting to counter. One of the things that we want to do is attack the whole game. When you give this kind of effort all day sometimes you start to slow down and that can lead to bad things. In the end we knew how to control the game and it ended well for us.”
Earlier this summer it became clear that new manager Eduardo Berizzo planned to permanently transition Muniain to a midfield role where he would be able to better impact matches. The 25-year-old says that he is very comfortable in the position and praised the fact that there are so many new faces in the team this season.
“I’m comfortable playing in the midfield. It is a position that I like very much. I feel very comfortable there because it allows me to have the biggest impact on the game. Now you can tell that I enjoy it. There were many new faces in the starting lineup. It has nothing to do with what happened last season. New players are always needed. We made several signings, some came up from Bilbao Athletic, and the new coach brought his ideas. He is the one who makes the decisions.”
Muniain has had to work very hard to overcome his two ACL tears, but he continues to say that going through the issues has made him a better player. He better appreciates being a professional footballer and claims that he is now playing the best football of his career which makes him very happy.
“The injuries changed me, or whatever you want to call it. I suffered the bitter face of football that involves injuries. Being out for a long time is something that you have to accept and when things go well you try to enjoy them as much as possible. To tell you the truth I never felt alone during those times. I felt surrounded and supported by my friends and family. That is something that helped me through it all. I was never afraid of not being able to play again, although it was a difficult recovery. There is always some doubt about being able to return to the same level and I am very happy that I have achieved that. I think I have reached an even better level.”
One of the biggest topics of conversation this summer has been the fact that Muniain is in need of a renewal. His current contract is set to expire next summer, but the midfielder says that he and the club have been waiting until after the season started to hold negotiations.
“There is a lot of talk about my renewal and, as I said a few days ago, we are focused on the start of the league. We haven’t addressed the issue yet, but we will see what happens. There haven’t been any concrete conversations, but there may be soon. It will happen when the club decides. I left my previous agent and now those who are close to me are handling these types of situations.”
When asked if he will spend his entire career with Athletic Club Muniain admitted that he likes to take it one day at a time. It’s a real possibility for the Lezama product who loves his boyhood club and he wants to show his commitment with his actions, not with words.
“My experience now tells me not to look at such long terms. I like to live day by day, but I have always said that there is a possibility that I will spend my entire career with Athletic. We are seeing thousands of things happen in football, so the intentions that someone has have to be demonstrated with actions and not with words. I am happy to be at Athletic and now I will go through the negotiation process and try to reach an agreement.”
In closing, Muniain stated that he is never happy to see a teammate leave Athletic but that you have to respect every player’s decision because it is their life and their career. He also refused to comment on Alex Remiro’s contract situation saying that it isn’t his place to discuss the issue. Things like this are a part of football and you have to know how to handle them.
“You never like these things to happen, but you have to respect the decisions. Each one, I’m sure, has weighed the pros and cons of their choices and we must respect what they have decided to do because every footballer has his own life. To Kepa I wish all the luck in the world, expect if he faces us one day. With Remiro’s situation we learned about it at the same time as everyone else. The coach told us. It is also a subject that I cannot comment on much because I don’t have enough information and it wouldn’t be wise to do so. We respect the decisions that the club has made. This is part of life and football. When you least expect it there can be changes. You have to learn to live with what is coming next.”
Playing as the Mediapunta has now given Muniain one of the most important roles in Eduardo Berizzo’s team. Since making the switch to midfield the argument can be made that he is playing the best football of his career, and Muniain definitely seems to think so too. This season will be just as difficult as others, but there is belief that Athletic Club can return to European qualification and it will take players like Iker Muniain stepping up to lead the Lions to glory.