Iñigo Martinez “It Would Be Nice To Play With The National Team At San Mamés”
It’s been just over a year since Iñigo Martinez made the switch from Real Sociedad to Athletic Club. The defender has quickly become a fan favorite at San Mamés and his family is very happy in Bilbao. On Thursday he sat down for an interview with Juanma Velasco of Marca and admitted that between signing for Athletic and becoming a father it’s been a big year.
“When I was in Donosti I knew Bilbao. I’m from Bizkaia and the treatment I’ve received here has made everything easier. I’m happy to be here and belong to Athletic. Both my family and I are very grateful. It’s been a big year, signing for Athletic and having my daughter. It’s one of the best things that anyone can experience. I’m happy and happy to have my daughter.”
Martinez has kept the same group of friends since he was young and most of them are Athletic fans. They supported him even when he played for Real Sociedad and the 27-year-old believes that friendship is one of the most important things in life.
“Most of my friends are Athletic fans. They always have been and many of them are Socios who never miss a game. When I was at Real they supported me because you always want the best for your friends. Now, those friends who are Real fans are supporting me just like they did before I was with Athletic. The most important thing is friendship.”
Despite being a professional footballer, Martinez still loves the game just like every fan. He watches as many matches as he can, although he does so with the mind of a player. He’s always trying to learn because he cares deeply about the game.
“I’m a football fan and I like to watch it and learn. There are times when you need to disconnect and maybe you don’t see as many games, but I like football and on free days I usually watch more than one game on television. Players see football in a different way than fans, both on the field and on television. We look at other things and different details. I live it intensely.”
Being on the field and out in public are two completely different things for Martinez. He says that being in a game changes a player, but normal life isn’t the same. Changing teams brought a lot of negativity but working hard has allowed him to quickly win over the Athletic fans.
“On the field you transform and fight to win. You get the rage and everything you have inside does whatever it takes to get those points. It’s our job and what provides for our families. On the street everyone is normal, with humility. When you are a rival and you are an important player or you have respect, you are used to the whistles and boos. This is how football works. When you change teams and do your job well and fight for the 90 minutes you win over the fans. That’s the case even more here.”
Martinez is playing his best football since joining Athletic and he tends to agree. That being said he also recognizes that form can change at any time, but he’s happy to have the trust of manager Gaizka Garitano and the backing of the fans.
“Maybe I am in my best moment, but that can change from one day to the next, although I hope that doesn’t happen. I feel comfortable and happy, which helps a lot. With the confidence that the coach gives and the support of the fans everything is easier. The Valencia loss was a shame. Now we come back to San Mamés for two games to climb the table.”
The introduction of VAR has changed football quite a bit and Martinez isn’t really a fan at this point. He’s already seen more than one moment turn into a penalty and is unhappy that every single moment is analyzed so closely. As professionals, everyone has to adapt to the new way of doing things, but that doesn’t mean that it’s perfect.
“Before VAR more contact was allowed and little by little football is changing. I’m a defender and I don’t like it much that I’m being looked at with a magnifying glass every play. Things are changing and we are professionals, but it does give a bit of anger. The most affected are the defenders and the forwards. It’s true that there is no diving because everything is seen from above. In the moment you don’t know if there is a penalty or nothing at all. There is tension because everything is left to the referee’s interpretation and when the images are seen in slow motion everything changes a lot. I don’t like stopping play for 2-3 minutes.”
Club football will come to a halt in two weeks when the international break begins. Martinez is expected to be listed in the Spain squad and he’s proud to compete with the National Team. He hopes to play with Spain at San Mamés during EURO 2020, but knows that is a long way off.
“I’m looking forward to seeing my name on the list. I hope so because it’s one of the things that I have always wanted. I would be happy to play in these upcoming games. The most important thing of all is to do well with your team because that gives you even more chances of going to the National Team. If I play well here I can have that call that I want so much. If there is a chance to play I want to do well so that I will be on the next list. It would be nice to play with the National Team at San Mamés, but that is still far away. I will have options because I have been in the squad for some time, although I have to continue earning my place. I’m very happy to go to the National Team and playing in the European Championship with the best team in the world is something very few can say.”
When asked whether or not he thinks a club will ever pay his €80 million release clause, Martinez said every player can be sold. He’s happy he made the decision to come to Athletic and isn’t thinking about leaving any time soon.
“We all have a price. I had the opportunity to make the jump and come here and I took it. I know how far I can go and give and I know that I can give a lot. I think that paying €80 million for a defender is very difficult. Today I am very comfortable and happy here and I don’t intend to leave. I want to do things in the best possible way.”
Iñigo Martinez and Yeray have formed one of the best center-back pairings in all of La Liga and there is a chance that both could be called up for Spain in a few weeks. In the meantime, the most important thing is Athletic and getting a good result against Espanyol on Friday night. Both defenders will have to be at their best to control the game and give the Lions the best chance of taking all three points at San Mamés.