Unai Nuñez “I’ve Proved That I Can Be At The Same Level As Yeray And Iñigo Martinez”
Unai Nuñez has the chance to play for the first time since January this weekend with Iñigo Martinez suspended. The 22-year-old is expected to start alongside Yeray, but he isn’t betting on anything just yet. On Friday he spoke with Javier Beltrán of AS to discuss his situation in the team and said that he believes he can challenge his teammates for more minutes.
“Well, the lineup isn’t known yet. I have a clearer opportunity to play and if I get to start, I promise to take advantage of it. At first the situation was a bit more difficult, but now I’m getting used to the idea. Earlier this year was the hardest. I wasn’t being selected and I thought something was wrong for me not to be in the team, although Peru was playing very well. Now I’m better positioned than him. I just want to play and for that I am training. Both Yeray and Iñigo are at a very good level, but if one of them is unavailable I can be at the same level and I proved it last year. The coach trusts them and when I play I will try to show that I am at the same level or even above.”
Nuñez went on to reveal that he hasn’t spoken with manager Gaizka Garitano about getting more playing time. He recognizes that Yeray and Martinez have been at a high level this season and he has to earn his chances.
“I haven’t spoken with the manager about how to reverse the situation. They are playing well and things are going well for the team. Who am I to ask for minutes. If they were playing poorly then it would be different, but not when they are performing like this. This is football. What I experienced last year will never be taken away from me. I gave a high level of defense in the Athletic first team.”
Athletic’s fabled 1997 generation has yielded some exciting players. Nuñez, Iñigo Córdoba, Unai Simón, and Asier Villalibre have all made it to the first team in one way or another. The defender admitted that it was a dream to be promoted last season, but also says that staying in the team is even harder than making it for the first time.
“I came here at 10 years old, playing with the Alevines. Last year was a dream, but the life of a footballer isn’t just one year. I have to keep making progress. It’s hard to get to the first team and even harder to stay there. I will play wherever they put. At Juvenil A I played on the side of the defense. It’s not my natural position, but I could do it. Córdoba and I have been lucky to be here. Unai started the season in an incredible way and Villalibre hasn’t had the continuity he deserves or the confidence of the coaches.”
Interestingly, Nuñez also started against Atlético Madrid earlier this season and put in a great performance. He’s not worried about facing Los Colchoneros again, though. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, he’s just focused on doing his best.
“It doesn’t bother me, playing Atlético again. On the contrary, it makes me more excited. I like to play matches and defend. If it’s against good players then even better. I don’t focus on the opponent, whether it’s Griezmann or Costa. I have to focus on myself to grow. I love the Simeone school, the way they defend and attack, and the strategy. I really admire Godín, a pure center-back as my father would say.”
Understandably, Nuñez wants to play as much as possible. When asked what he wants out of his career the 22-year-old said he would like to play in Europe and win titles. There was talk of his leaving for England in January, though Nuñez said he’s fully committed to Athletic Club.
“I want to play the most games possible, be in Europe, and of course, win titles which would be the most beautiful thing in the world. The transfer rumors in January? What I want is to play. I am with Atheltic and while I have a contract here I will give 200%. I’m not worried about not being called up for the U21 EUROs. What worries me is that I’m not playing for my club and that makes the chances of being called up to the Selection much smaller.”
Unai Nuñez will have the perfect opportunity to prove himself on Saturday as Athletic try to beat Atlético Madrid for the first time in 2013. It’s going to be an extremely difficult game for the Zurigorri, but a victory could launch them back into the heart of the battle for Europe. The players are full of confidence at the moment and San Mamés is ready to roar again.