Rafa Alkorta “I Do Believe That The Team Is Now Fighting For Europe”
Rafa Alkorta is excited to be back working at Athletic. Since taking over as the Sporting Director he’s been verbal about wanting to help the club find as much success as possible and now that seems to be the case under manager Gaizka Garitano. In a recent interview with EFE Alkorta admitted that he thinks Athletic are now competing for European qualification.
“I’ve been in football all my life and there’s nothing that surprises me. I’m comfortable and I like what I do. The most positive thing is being able to work at the club of my life, at Athletic. If the first team is doing well, everything looks different and that has helped us a lot. I think we’re going to fight to be in Europe. Of course nobody has any problem talking about it. I do believe that the team is now fighting for Europe.”
Gaizka Garitano has been the main catalyst in turning around Athletic’s season. The manager has introduced a system that works to the strengths of the players and its Alkorta’s goal to extend his contract as soon as possible.
“Garitano has understood what the team needed from the outset. He’s shown that he knows how to take advantage of the good team he has, because this is a good team, and he has done well. The team is very confident and has turned things around in record time. Two months ago nobody expected that we would be ten points above the relegation zone. I can’t tell you the date of Garitano’s renewal, but let’s keep going.”
Aritz Aduriz is also in need of a new contract, as is Mark Susaeta. Alkorta was quick to point out that age isn’t an issue for the striker, who recently turned 38, but also stated that he will not make any decisions on renewals until he and Garitano discuss the plans for next season.
“Aduriz is going to come back well from the injury, so we just have to wait with him and keep enjoying him. He is a different player, because it was later in his career when he exploded. These years are the best that I’ve seen at Athletic. He has such a strong mentality, so much confidence, and he knows himself so well that age has never been a problem for him. Until I sit down with the coach I still can’t make any assessment on the other players who have expiring contracts.”
If there is one thing Alkorta knows, it’s defending. He is one of the best center-backs to have ever played for Athletic and had no problems heaping immense praise on the current duo of Iñigo Martinez and Yeray. The Sporting Director believes that they may be the best pairing in all of La Liga and that they could represent the National Team as well.
“Iñigo Martinez can become a constant in the National Team without a doubt, and for a long time. Yeray could do so as well. They have both been exceptional. Right now they are possibly among the top three center-back pairings in the Spanish league. I think they are the ones who have raised their level impressively and have given confidence and solidity to the rest of the team. Having a good central pair is a great thing.”
Alkorta holds Athletic’s philosophy very dear and would like to win a major title in the near future to prove that a club can be successful while still holding to unique values. He’s also very proud of how the club has supported the growth of Women’s football and says that it will definitely continue to grow.
“Winning a title would be the maximum goal. Winning with our philosophy has nothing to do with the rest of the world. I would like to win a title, above everything else, to remind the world that there is a team with this philosophy that can win even against Barcelona. We are also excited that the Women’s team have been able to play in San Mamés and that the fans filled the stadium. What we are trying to do is support them in everything.”
In closing, Alkorta was not shy about his love for Real Madrid. He played at the club from 1993-1997 and wants to see Los Blancos remain successful. That being said, his heart will always be for Athletic and he was happy that Real Madrid let him return to the San Mamés when he was a player.
“Real Madrid are my second team. I am very happy for their success. I have been a part of that team and I have many friends there. Whenever they aren’t playing Athletic I like for them to win. I enjoy that they have won the Champions League. Being a part of a club that has won all those titles is lucky and I am a part of that history. I have always been grateful with how they treated me and the respect they showed me when I left because they understood that I wanted to return here. Athletic has always been my home, my life.”
Rafa Alkorta has been developing his plan for Lezama for several years now. He wants to turn the academy into one of the best in Europe, but for now he’s analyzing the current state of Lezama before instituting his ideas after the season ends. Alkorta has a specific vision that he wants to accomplish, however the most important thing right now is the success of the first team.