Iago Herrerín “What I Like The Most In The World Is Being On This Team”
Iago Herrerín is living his dream of being the starting goalkeeper at Athletic Club. It’s taken a long time for him to reach this point, but he’s very happy and wants to enjoy what took so much effort to accomplish. Over the weekend he joined Robert Basic of El Correo to answer some questions about his role in the team, favorite moments, and what it means to play for Athletic.
What do you think about the point against Espanyol?
“We went with the conviction of getting all three and to think about the objectives above. Everything was complicated around their goal. They knew how to lock themselves in and work. When we scored we had energy, but we didn’t create chances to turn it around.”
Does the draw change the goals?
“Not much. Adding is always positive because at another time we would not have even gotten one point. We would love to get together with the group above, but with the season we’ve had the goal is to get the 42 points as soon as possible. If we are closer to Europe then, which is what we want, we will try to fight for it.”
For years you have defended that you deserve to play on weekends. Has football been fair to you?
“What any footballer wants is to play. I have never been a conformist. I like to give my best, try to play every game, and for one reason or another I had not succeeded. This year, and after a bunch of situations like an injury and Kepa’s departure, I’m having the opportunity to play.”
And the fans? Have they been fair?
“I do not know. That’s one thing that I’m not going to worry about anymore. There’s a little bit of everything. Some will like Unai Simón, some Remiro, and others will like me. After many years it has been up to me to be the starter and I enjoy it. I do not think about what people will say.”
You assume that not everyone will like you?
“I’ve known that since the first game I played in San Mamés. Maybe it’s because of my way of playing, my daring, or my mouth many times which I do not like at all; and vice versa, some like the way that I am.”
How do you handle the criticism?
“The right criticism is good. I am the first to criticize myself when I do something wrong or make a mistake. Every goal that I concede and every pass I fail to make are things that I criticize and try to improve. Everyone needs constructive criticism and it’s important. But the destructive and the ones that only hurt I don’t get along with well. I need to go to bed quiet and talk things over. Many times I would like to answer people and ask ‘why do you say that’ and then provide data. I have been relaxing, breathing, and counting to 100 and 1,000. I do not give it that much importance anymore.”
Do you remember the first time you played in goal?
“Yes. The two keepers were injured and the coach asked ‘who wants to do it?’ ‘I’ll play’, I said. I played with adults and they did not score on me in that game or the next game either. From there I split time in goal and at forward. When you are a kid you can make a thousand changes. I saw that I was good in goal.”
You also scored goals but decided to put on the gloves.
“Yes! Sometimes I joke with my friends and I tell them that if instead of being a goalkeeper who knows how far I would’ve gone as a forward.”
What are goalkeepers made of?
“Something different. We are different in the field, we train differently, and we can also touch the ball with our hands. Sometimes our work is more mental than anything else. Sometimes you face three shots and you don’t stop one and then you face another 17 and you save them all.”
You used to put friends in the goal to experience it.
“Yes. Even my teammates, when joking, I put them under the sticks and they would tell me ‘It’s great’. To everyone who talks about playing in goal, I recommend that you get in one and have someone shoot at you. It’s a beautiful experience.”
Are you in the best moment of your career?
“I’m in the moment I’ve wanted to be before, but it’s come to me now.”
You aren’t even conceding one goal per game.
“It’s also a lot of merit to the team and how we are defending. I’m not guided by the goals.”
“Definitely. Last season, playing what I played in the league and also in Europe, I played better games than this year. I have achieved my goal of being a starter. I would have liked to play before, but the coaches have decided that it’s my turn now and I’m enjoying it.”
When you concede a goal, do you prefer to be comforted or to be left alone?
“Leave me alone. I already know that I have made a mistake, I am the first to know. The beauty and the good thing about football is knowing how to live with the error. Any footballer, goalkeeper, coach or manager will commit mistakes, just like anyone else. Mistakes will be made and you have to know how to handle it.”
“Life is to make mistakes. Mistakes are the moments in which you learn. When you see the best goalkeepers in the world making a big mistake you say ‘And they are the best in the world! They save more shots than anyone.'”
What has been your worst day as a professional?
“It was not a match and it happened recently. It was the dismissal of Eduardo (Berizzo). I had a spectacular relationship with him and the coaching staff. Not only me, but the whole team. When you get along with someone, you have wonderful training sessions and you see that things aren’t working out, it makes you angry. We are the ones who play. That day was really hard for me.”
Did you feel guilty?
“Of course. You have to feel guilty because we are the ones who play. From the self-criticism, we had to know that we were not giving our best.”
And what was the best moment?
“The Copa semifinal match against Espanyol in Barcelona. Although I got injured, I played a pretty complete Cup match and it helped us reach the final. When you leave the changing rooms of the Camp Nou you can’t see the top part of the steps and when I jumped on the grass I saw all the fans. I wanted to cry, to throw myself onto the field, to enter the dressing room again and not come back out. Many times when I don’t feel like I’m doing well I go on YouTube and I watch the video of that. It helps me relive it.”
You will play your 100th game against Atlético Madrid.
“I’ve had this game marked on my calendar since the beginning of the season. You have to always see the positive. There is still a week left and I don’t want to talk about these things too much. I will play my 100th game against the team that I left to return to Athletic.”
You could have played many more by now.
“Yes, or even less. For a goalkeeper like me, who was not a starter in the league, reaching 100 games in less than six seasons isn’t bad. I understand that there are about 20 games per season and you have to give it value. I would like to reach 300, but that is not the case.”
When Kepa renewed did you think about leaving?
“At that time, no. I was playing just as well as he was. When I renewed there was a lot of fuss with Kepa, but I signed because I was doing it right. When he renewed I knew what my role was again and I decided to finish the season in the best way. I wasn’t given a chance after we were eliminated from Europe despite the year I was having. When the season ended there were many offers and also options to leave on loan. We talked and Berizzo told me he loved me. I understood what my situation was and that Kepa was the starter for the club, but he told me that I would have opportunities to play in the league.”
He made that clear?
“Yes. Everything changed overnight.”
Did you feel relief when Kepa left?
“I do not know if it was relief. Kepa is the best goalkeeper I’ve ever played with and €80 million doesn’t seem like enough for him to me. To put it in a way, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I saw that my moment had arrived. It also didn’t last long because the day after I was injured and returned to the tunnel. I have a good relationship with Kepa.”
You have a contract through 2021. What happens after that?
“I have enough the day by day. I’m trying to enjoy the thing that took so long for me to achieve. What I like most in the world is being on my team, which is this one.”
Who is the striker who has most impacted you on the football field?
“There have been two: Aduriz and Forlán. I have not seen anything like them. Forlán hit the ball with both legs so easily, it was incredible.”
And the goalkeeper who most impacted you?
“It’s always been Iker Casillas. Whoever hasn’t enjoyed Casillas does not understand the goal or does not understand football. In the key moments he was always there. He is the best in the world and one of the best in history.”
What is your ideal defensive four?
“Piqué is a scandal, Aymeric is another top player, so is Iñigo [Martinez]. On the sides Filipe Luis and Iraola. Andoni is the best I’ve seen in my life.”
Do you like VAR?
“Yes, it’s good for football. It’s fair with football, but I have a referee friend and he tells me that we are in the first stages of VAR.”
What was the biggest save of your career?
“I hope it’s still coming. There was one in the Copa semifinal against Espanyol, a shot from Caicedo between the legs of Etxeita. I touched it with my fingers and then it hit the post and came back to my hands. It was decisive because it happened in the 50th minute and they could have gotten into the game. Today that’s the biggest save I’ve made.”
What about the goal that never should have been scored?
“The one on my debut at San Mamés against Celta, the second goal scored by Santi Mina.”
What do you want to accomplish at Athletic?
“For the moment I want to keep enjoying myself. I can say that I achieved a title with this club, something that not many have been able to do, and also play in a final. For me, just being here is a reward. When I hear the anthem from the dressing room I get goosebumps.”