Mikel San José “When You Want To Be At Athletic You Really Have To Show It”
Sunday’s match against Getafe presents Athletic with the perfect opportunity to start adding valuable points and climbing the league table. Mikel San José recently sat down for an exclusive interview with Iñaki Ugalde of Mundo Deportivo and said that the team is well aware of the importance. The players have to be the ones to perform better on the field and they are ready to give everything they have at the San Mamés.
“We all have to be aware that it’s an important game, that the dynamics of the team aren’t the best and that we need to win to take a step forward. Obviously you have to do that on the field. We have to do things better and make fewer mistakes because it’s clear that we are the ones who have to win the games. I believe and I hope that the environment at the San Mamés will push us forward. The results haven’t been good, but in the last few games we have done things better. We are all going to give everything we have.”
Many people are calling Sunday’s match a final, but San José doesn’t agree. Still, he recognizes that it is an important game because of the poor run that the team has been going through.
“I don’t believe that Sunday’s game is a final. Finals are won or lost and then you are a champions or second, or as some say, the first loser. It’s clear that isn’t the situation Sunday at the San Mamés. It’s a very important game, like all those which are to come, but especially due to the situation we are going through.”
When asked if it could be a final for manager Eduardo Berizzo, San José was quick to brush off the though. He says that the team is very happy with the coaching staff and that there is a positive atmosphere around the squad. They are doing everything well and just need to show it with better results.
“No way. I see the coach, and his coaching staff, happy and calm. We are totally convinced with what he does, with his ideas, and with how to train and work. Anyone who watches the trainings sees that the team works at a very high intensity and everyone is cheerful. There is a very good atmosphere. It’s different that is was last year. The situation is very similar, but perhaps the atmosphere wasn’t as relaxed as it is now. The coaches are close to the players and they manage to create a more relaxed and positive atmosphere. I think we are on the right track. The only thing that remains is to transfer that into points.”
When the season started San José was not enjoying regular playing time but that has changed over the last few matches. The midfielder said that it is up to every player to work hard to try to earn more minutes and that the coach is the one who decides who will play each match.
“The coach is the one who decides who plays and who doesn’t play. We have a big squad and he has a lot of variety to choose from. We just have to work hard to convince the coach and have more minutes. Individually and collectively we all come to Lezama every day to work to improve so that the team wins. We all know that sometimes we receive compliments and sometimes criticism. It is what it is.”
The 29-year-old took a moment to address the expectations on the team. He realizes that the success over the past few years have brought higher demand, but also wants to see more patience. He believes that better results will come with time and doesn’t think that fans should expect so much of the team so quickly.
“With the trajectory that the team has been on, qualifying for Europe in consecutive seasons, everyone is too hurried and impatient. There is a demand for what we have given and what we believe we can accomplish, but we must always be patient. Sometimes you can try different things and new ideas take time, but nowadays the world says ‘I want everything and I want it now’. There has to be tranquility knowing the path that we are taking is good and that better things will come sooner or later.”
Turning his attention to off the field issues, San José admitted that things really haven’t seemed different at all since the Board of Directors stepped down last week. In his opinion, former President Josu Urrutia should be recognized for the fantastic job that he has done with the club.
“At the moment we don’t notice anything different or strange. The club and Lezama continue to operate daily. In fact, they renewed Muni. We know that on 27 December there will be elections and there will be a new President so, yes, we are on the lookout for that. From my point of view as a Socio, Urrutia should be highly valued. His tenure has been very positive. The sporting aspect has been quite god and the economic management, without understanding all the numbers, has been good as well. The club is in a good situation and important sporting decisions have also been made. He’s managed the club in a very successful way. Urrutia is a President that has represented me.”
The Lezama product was then asked about players who left the club while Urrutia was President. San José understands that it is part of the game, but also pointed out that several players still remain from when he came back to the club in 2009. Every player has an expiration date.
“The team is still very similar to what it was when I returned from Liverpool, but we all know what football is like. We are all aware that teammates can come and go. One day it will be my turn. When I came back we had De Marcos, Muni, Itu, Susa, and me and we are all still here. Sometimes players leave because the clause is paid, sometimes because you want to go, sometimes because your career is at an end.”
In closing, San José praised teammate Iker Muniain for signing a new contract that doesn’t contain a release clause. It shows Muniain’s loyalty to the club and makes it clear that he has no plans to leave Athletic. San José admitted that he has always been willing to do the same thing because he has never had any intention of leaving his boyhood club either.
“I’ve always thought that when you want to be at Athletic you have to really show it. Muni, for example, just proved it. The decision to not include a release clause was a surprise for everyone. I don’t know if it is good or bad, but it is a detail that implies that he doesn’t want to leave the club. That is something positive. When I returned from Liverpool I said that I would accept a clause of €40 million, €400 million, or none at all in my contract and that hasn’t changed. Muni’s decision has been unique, but I would consider doing the same thing because I don’t have the intention of going anywhere else. We all have an expiration date, but personally I have never wanted to leave.”
Mikel San José has returned to better form this season after being unable to thrive under Kuko Ziganda last year. He currently has one year left on his contract with Athletic and is hoping to earn a renewal to continue his career with the club. For now, he is working to play as many minutes as possible and is preparing for what will be a very important match against Getafe on Sunday at the San Mamés.