Yeray “I Want To Recover The Level I Had In My First Year”
Yeray has been through a lot since making his first team debut back in 2016. The defender became a starter at the San Mamés, battled and overcame cancer twice, and is now back in the lineup as one of the leaders in the team. On Thursday he spoke to the media, as well as an interview with Javier Beltran of AS, and made it clear that he aims to continue earning his place at Athletic Club.
“I’m working to try to show the coach that I can be what he wants in the position and I want to keep my place. I’ve always said that I want to recover the level I had in my first year. Playing at a high level has a high demand. I have always modeled my game after Carles Puyol and Rafa Alkorta. The truth is that it is magnificent to be compared with someone like Puyol.”
Turning his attention to his teammates, Yeray had high praise for Peru Nolaskoain. The 19-year-old was promoted from Bilbao Athletic over the summer and was moved from midfield to center-back where he has started beside Yeray in both games to start the season.
“The kids are getting stronger and better every day. I’ve been comfortable playing beside Peru. You can trust him because he’s very focused on defense and he’s looked secure and comfortable. He’s a kid with a great future ahead of him. Not everyone has the same way of playing. Both Unai [Nuñez] and I faced that last year and we know that you have to train hard every day and continue improving to be in the starting eleven.”
Yeray also looked ahead to Saturday’s meeting with Real Madrid and says that they will still be a very difficult opponent, even though Cristiano Ronaldo has left the club. The defense will have to be focused throughout the entire game if they want to take points off of their visitors and the 23-year-old even predicted a 1-0 win for the Lions.
“It’s true that Cristiano scored most of the goals, but Real Madrid has always been a team that is full of great players. He led them to a lot of victories, but this year I see Bale, Asensio, and Benzema playing at a very high level. They play the ball impeccably and we will have to force some turnovers. You have to be completely focused in defense when marking those players. Sergio Ramos can be dangerous in the air as well. I’ve already had to face him before and I don’t mind doing it again. They also have a new manager who I think is a pretty good coach with very clear ideas. He knows how he wants to play. A prediction? I’ll say 1-0.”
During his interview with AS, Yeray was able to touch on some personal things going on his life. He said that his goal this season is to feel and play at the same level that he did in his first year. He knows that with regular minutes those sensations will return and he’s excited about that.
“My goal this season is to feel what I felt the first year again. That security and tranquility that I had on the field with my teammates couldn’t be achieved very much last year. These first days I haven’t felt it either, but with more minutes it will come. You have to be self-critical and know when you are right and wrong.”
Even though he beat cancer twice Yeray doesn’t consider himself an example for people to look at. He isn’t interested in being famous and is just trying to focus on being a better footballer every day. That being said, he will always be willing to help those that he can because he knows what it is like to go through the battle with the disease.
“I don’t consider myself as someone living a famous life. I have a very simple family. I have been taught that no matter how much you have, you know where you come from and who you are. Any person that overcomes a challenge is an example to others. That may be true, but many people see me as the example for overcoming an illness and I don’t see it that way. I have almost forgotten the topic. I will try to help all the people who need it, but on a daily basis I’m focused on football.”
In closing, Yeray discussed the importance of Lezama saying that even players with natural talent wouldn’t be where they are today without the prized academy. It takes hard work and training to reach this level and the defender knows that first hand. When asked if he would ever leave the club like Kepa Arrizabalaga did earlier this summer, Yeray said that he wants to stay at Athletic for many years.
“It is clear that there are many players who are born with a specific gift, players like Unai López and Muniain. There are players who have great technique at a young age, but without hard work and the effort over all the years at Lezama you wouldn’t be here. Will I be like Laporte and Kepa? Everyone who is here knows what he wants. Everyone has their own goals and I want to be at Athletic for many years.”
Yeray is going to have his hands full on Saturday when Real Madrid come to the San Mamés. They may be without Cristiano Ronaldo, but Los Blancos still boast a very dangerous attack and the Athletic defense will have to be at their best if they want to earn points from the match. It is going to be a difficult game for both sides and Athleticzales are sure to have the Cathedral roaring.