Aitor Elizegi Discusses Athletic Club’s Unique Philosophy, Transfer Targets, And Euskal Selekzioa
Aitor Elizegi’s first day as Athletic Club President was certainly a busy one. He gave several interview to discuss his plans for the club as well as share what he is already working on putting into place. Elizegi admitted that he’s been preparing his candidacy for nearly a decade and that he has no plans to touch Athletic’s unique philosophy because the Socios do not want that to happen.
“I have had this idea for at least 8 years. I believed that we had possibilities of winning from the very beginning. I told you to never doubt our ability to work. We have been taught to be very intense and we have made this candidacy happen. I feel comfortable among the Socios in this social environment. We will continue to do the same in regards to the club’s philosophy because we haven’t found one Socio who wants change. I have friends from the last four Boards of Directors of Ibaigane. I don’t intend on renouncing those people. Why can’t I support myself in Lamikiz, in Macua, in Lertxundi, or Urquijo. I think I’ll pick up Alberto’s hand and that of Josu Urrutia. We have a responsibility to the Socios. There have been regular General Assemblies, but I don’t think the Socios have actually felt heard.”
On Saturday the Sporting Committee headed up by Ricardo Hernani and Rafa Alkorta will meet with those currently at the club and analyze what changes need to be made. The ultimate goal at this point to moving clear of the relegation zone and Elizegi believes that Athletic has a strong team that will bring good results.
“Tomorrow the Sports Commission will meet to make the first assessments of the situation. I am sure that we will find the necessary solutions. The Sports team is already working in a collegiate and independent manner. The Socios believe in the strength of this group and believe that together we can achieve our objectives. Surely tomorrow they will hear the impressions with Rafa and Andoni and we will see how strong the team is and how to prepare for the game in Vigo. This is a good team and a good squad. The most important thing right now is to get the 40 or so points needed to remain safe.”
Elizegi has stated many times that he wants to build a global Athletic brand and to do that the team on the field must be successful. The new President wants to talk to former players who have left the club and find out why they chose to move elsewhere instead of continuing to defend the Zurigorri.
“We understand that a very important part of generating resources is for Athletic to perform well on the grass. We are a football team. You have to see what the players who left the club feel. If a kid believes that his career will be better outside of Bilbao we should ask ourselves why. It would have been very important for us that the goalkeeper from Ondarroa [Kepa Arrizabalaga] had stayed. We saw what we lost in midfield with Javi Martinez.”
As expected, Elizegi will be meeting with Alex Remiro soon to try to figure out why the goalkeeper has refused to negotiate a new contract. The President wants to reach out to all the players who have left Athletic in hopes of bringing some of them back to the club, especially Ibai Gómez and Fernando Llorente who has publicly expressed his desire to return to the San Mamés.
“We will meet with Remiro very soon to understand what thoughts and feelings he has. We are going to reach out to players who have left the club. First we are going to approach their environments to see what feelings they have, but always with loyalty and respect to the clubs that have the rights of these players. We are talking about the case of Ibai. We have all missed Ibai these last two years. Fernando has said that he would like to return to Athletic. It’s a good start for a player to declare his intentions. That’s where it always starts. I don’t have the pleasure of knowing Tottenham yet and we don’t know if they are going to negotiate one way or another. There is no one here that doesn’t want to be here.”
Turning his attention to the sporting aspect, Elizegi hopes that Gaizka Garitano will continue as the first team coach next season. For that to happen the team must be successful which is the hope of everyone at the club and every fan.
“Nobody wanted the departure of Berizzo, but after appointing Gaizka, who we have the privilege of knowing very well, we have declared from the first minute that we are in very good hands to go through a very tough second half of the season. We think it is the road that must be traveled from here through the end of the season. Hopefully he will stay with us after the summer because that would give a very important feeling of strength.”
In closing Elizegi admitted that he would like to see the Basque National Team competing in international tournaments. He is aware that Spain doesn’t want it to happen, but says that it would be special for those in the Basque Country. Regardless, he understands that it isn’t something that he can fix and refuses to mix politics with Athletic Club.
“I miss the Euskadi used to play Spain. It would be a beautiful game. I would like to see Euskai in the European Championship, but that isn’t something that I can change. I have many cooking friends in Spain and I will not stop appreciating them, but that doesn’t mean that they want to see Euskadi play Spain. They won’t let us playin the Premier League. We play in La Liga and we are comfortable competing in this tough and good league that has quality and also allows us to play with people from home. I would like to make the Euskadi team official. For us it would be something nice, but it isn’t my turn to fix this. We don’t like to mix politics. You won’t see us on that path, I don’t believe in it.”
Aitor Elizegi is the face of change at Athletic Club. He won the vote from Socios because he has promised to modernize the club while also holding true to the philosophy and values that have identified Athletic all these years. The new President has taken over in the middle of a difficult season but has regularly shared his confidence that the team will finish the campaign in a good place in the La Liga table.