Iñigo Martinez “I Don’t Regret Anything, I’m Happy At Athletic”
Iñigo Martinez sent shockwaves throughout Spain last season when the defender accepted an offer to leave Real Sociedad and join Athletic Club. The Lions did not have a good campaign under Kuko Ziganda, but Martinez is now enjoying his first full season with the team. In an exclusive interview with Iñaki Ugalde of Mundo Deportivo, he says that things are a lot different this year and that the fans are excited about what Athletic is doing under new manager Eduardo Berizzo.
“When I came here last seasons things we not going well. What we transmitted to the fans is not what we are transmitting now. The team wasn’t the same as it is now. We were in a bad form that we couldn’t get out of. When you can’t find a solution the end of the year feels like an eternity away. Kuko was aware of everything and he did everything possible to fix the issues, but when you get into those potholes it’s usually very difficult to get out. It looked like every time we went on the field the fans were not happy. This year has changed. There is hope and exciting, especially in the big games.”
The 27-year-old went on to say that, despite the tough season last year, he has no regrets about making the switch to the San Mamés. He knew what the club was capable of and says that he is very happy at Athletic and couldn’t pass up the opportunity when it was presented to him in January.
“Things were not going well for Athletic before I arrived, but I knew that it was a great team with great players on a football and personal level. That’s why I made the change. I don’t have any regrets, I’m happy at Athletic. You can see that in every game and in every training. I absolutely don’t regret anything. The place that I came from is practically similar to Lezama in every way. The way the youth academy works, the opportunities for the fans at home, the help and the atmosphere between the teammates is great…there are only small differences. As my teammates welcomed me, and I already knew some of them, it isn’t take me long to adapt. The decision to join Athletic was made from one day to the next. It was made very quickly and in those situations you have to take them or let them pass. I couldn’t miss that opportunity.”
Martinez did not play his first game of the season until last weekend against Real Madrid. The defender had missed all of the preseason with a calf injury and then suffered muscle pain while on international duty with Spain. He revealed that he sat out things with Spain out of precaution and wanted to make sure that he was healthy enough to play against Madrid.
“I had the opportunity to play at Wembley, but the day after I noticed some slight discomfort in training. We chose to stop, more as a precaution than anything else. I wanted to play with Athletic and Madrid was an important game for us. It was a decision by the coach, the doctor, and myself. Ideally, I needed a couple days of rest. Being called up was a huge surprise for me. I didn’t expect it at all because I had not played for a while. It was great news and I was very happy.”
Athletic will not be playing their first away game of the season as they will be taking on Real Betis. Martinez said that every player wants to compete at the Benito Villamarín, which is a special stadium. He recognizes that the Lions will have to put in a strong performance if they want to earn three points and knows that Betis have the quality to make it a very difficult match.
“The Villamarín is another stadium that everyone wants to play in. The fans and atmosphere are great. Betis are a good team. They know how to play football, they want possession, and they are always trying to attack. We want to win and we will have to give 100%, not just to win, but to be able to score. They just played on Thursday and having two games in the same week can take its toll. You have to be focused because the small details can decide a game.”
In closing, Martinez made it clear that Berizzo wants the team to play with the same intensity at home and on the road. There is no excuse to not have a performance like the one against Real Madrid. He also revealed that the old San Mamés will always be his favorite football stadium, saying that the atmosphere was something different to everywhere else.
“Berizzo’s goal has always been for us to continue playing the same way we have at the San Mamés. He has shown his true style and we want to have the possession on our opponent’s field. The old San Mamés is my favorite stadium. It had something special. In spite of it being so old, the fans made a lot of noise that you could feel. That was a different type of atmosphere.”
Athletic are currently tied with Real Betis on 5 points, but the Lions do have a game in hand. If they are able to win on Sunday they could climb back into the European zone of the La Liga table. The Basques will be without Aritz Aduriz and Berizzo will likely be rotating his team with a midweek game on the horizon, but Athletic will still be able to field a strong lineup in hopes of continuing their unbeaten streak this season.