Iker Muniain “I Would Rather Win A Cup With Athletic Than 5 Champions League Titles With Any Other Team”
In just a few months it will be 10 years since Iker Muniain made his first-team debut for Athletic. It doesn’t feel that long ago for fans, but for the 26-year-old it was a lifetime ago. In an interview with Panenka Magazine, Muniain recounted what it was like leaving Txantrea to join the Athletic academy and how he is living his childhood dream.
“I remember spending all day in the square playing football with my friends while I was at Txantrea. That’s one thing that has been lost and it makes me sad now. There’s nostalgia. It was a difficult step to come to Athletic. With time you realize that it was a success, but it was complicated at the time because it was as if my world changed. I missed my parents and my friends, but at Athletic I had great references like Julen Guerrero, Joseba Etxeberria, Fran Yeste…players who gave me a lot of attention. Coming to Athletic was a dream come true.”
Muniain has been a different player and person since his first ACL injury a few years back. He admitted that it changed him. Before he had the nickname “Bart Simpson” because of his rebel-like personality, but that’s not something he identifies with anymore. Now he takes the game seriously as a captain and is married with kids.
“That first injury marked a before and after for me. Before I was the typical rebel type of guy, the rogue Bart Simpson, as people used to say. Over time I have matured to become the person and player I am now. The people who called me like that don’t like me anymore. It was a good time in my life, but I don’t feel like I identify with that anymore. I’m happy with my renewal too. Why do I need a clause if I don’t want to go anywhere else? Others are attracted to winning the Champions League, but I feel something else.”
Throughout his career, Muniain had offers to leave Athletic and join other clubs. He knows that he could have won many titles by now had he accepted those opportunities, but that wasn’t the goal he had for his life. It’s always been Muniain’s goal to win titles at Athletic and that means more to him than being successful at any other club.
“Maybe I gave up the chance to win a lot of titles, but I’ve always preferred to win a Cup here than five Champions League titles with any other team. You win a Cup here and you are a legend. If I were to win somewhere else it would be just another number. That’s why I got the Super Cup tattoo. How could I not? No one can tell me that it wasn’t the first and maybe the last title that I will win with Athletic in my life. Athletic competes against its own history. Having never been relegated is a treasure for everyone and that responsibility is brutal.”
Iker Muniain has become a reference for many other young players who attend Lezama and want to reach the first team. Throughout his career, Muniain has faced plenty of adversity but has always come away stronger. He’s gone from being an exciting young footballer to a respected leader at Athletic and someone who always puts the club first. It feels as though he’s already enjoyed an entire career, but at 26 he still has a lot of football ahead of him and wants to win titles with the club he loves above all else.