Joseba Etxeberria In Line To Become The Next Manager Of Bilbao Athletic
Joseba Etxeberria is one of the greatest players to ever wear the Athletic shirt. He made over 500 appearances for the Lions and has always been outspoken about the club he loves so dearly. Two years after retiring in 2010, he returned to the Zurigorri as a youth coach within Lezama. The goal was to groom him as a potential manager for the first team and he did quite well.
After serving as an assistant coach under Ernesto Valverde and managing the Juvenil A team, Etxeberria was promoted to coach CD Basconia in 2016. He brought positive results and helped many players take the next step in their development, especially Iñigo Vicente. Then, the following summer, Athletic agreed to let Etxeberria leave to coach Amorebieta while still under contract with the Lions.
As expected, Etxeberria was once again successful with Amorebieta and attracted the attention of other clubs. In February of 2018 he accepted an offer to coach Tenerife and helped lead the team to promotion to the Segunda. In May he agreed to a contract with the Islanders, effectively ending his time at Athletic, but was relieved of his duties just five games into the season with 3 draws and 2 defeats.
Since losing his place at Tenerife, Etxeberria has enjoyed being a fan of football. He’s regularly posted pictures on social media of him attending matches, many of which are in Bizkaia and at Lezama. While he may not be coaching at the moment his goal is to be back on the sidelines and a return to Lezama is his biggest goal.
According to a report from Javier Beltrán of AS, Etxeberria aims to return to Lezama and is interested in managing Bilbao Athletic. Aritz Solabarrieta is currently the coach for Bilbao Athletic after being promoted from CD Basconia when Gaizka Garitano took over the first team, but he isn’t expected to continue in the role after this season. Sporting Director Rafa Alkorta has been studying Lezama, including Bilbao Athletic and Basconia, since December’s election and changes will come this summer.
Etxeberria’s desire to manage Bilbao Athletic isn’t just wishful thinking. An exclusive report from Javier Ortiz De Lazcano of El Correo states that he is Rafa Alkorta’s first choice for the position. Alkorta and President Aitor Elizegi actually contacted Etxeberria about coaching Bilbao Athletic shortly after the December elections and it’s very possible that the move could happen this summer. Etxeberria is currently waiting to see what other offers he receives before making a decision as he can’t take the job right now with Solabarrieta at the helm.
“Time will tell, I hope so”, Etxeberria said when asked by Onda Cero if he will return to Lezama. “I have not been gone long and this profession has taught me to always be prepared. Playing at Athletic is always a prize and it was a privilege to defend this shirt for so many years. The way I’ve been valued and the love that the fans have for me is really special.”
Alkorta has made it clear that he wants to turn Lezama into the best academy in Europe, but he also wants the youth teams to win. That hasn’t really been the case for Bilbao Athletic who have lost every single road game under Solabarrieta. The Katxorros are essentially out of the promotional playoff race at this point. If Solabarrieta does leave his post, which is expected, he could actually be reassigned to a team within Lezama where he has had success as a coach. Just last year he guided Juvenil A to one of the best seasons in history.
Alkorta wants another strong manager to take over Bilbao Athletic after seeing both Kuko Ziganda and Gaizka Garitano excel in the role. The goal is to hire someone who has coached at a higher level, understands Lezama, and could potentially lead the first team one day in case there is an emergency need. Etxeberria checks all of those boxes and being an Athletic legend is an added bonus. He also has a great relationship with Alkorta as the two were teammates at Athletic and his desire to return to Lezama makes it even more likely that he could be the next Bilbao Athletic manager.
Athletic are said to be interested in bringing former players Koikili Lertxundi and Javi González, as well as former Getxo manager Jon Moreno to Lezama as well. Alkorta has also left the door open for Kuko Ziganda to return to the academy. Current Barakaldo manager Aitor Larrazabal is also a target. The club legend has done a phenomenal job coaching Barakaldo, although it would be difficult to convince him to leave his current position. Rafa Alkorta is looking to make some coaching changes at Lezama this summer, among other things, and it appears as though he also has an eye for those who have worn the Athletic shirt.