Aitor Elizegi “Garitano And His Team Deserve A Full Season And The Chance To Work From The Summer”
Not much has changed at Athletic since Aitor Elizegi was voted in as the new President in late December. Since the elections he and his Board have been analyzing the state of the club and will begin to put their plans into motion when the season comes to an end. In the meantime, the first team has turned things around manager Gaizka Garitano. Elizegi was a special guest on Monday night’s Fuera de Juego radio show and praised the Mister for helping the team find their identity.
“We have the calendar on the horizon and we think we can be solvent in every game. I think that every Athleticzale thinks we can face any opponent in the league tomorrow. This coaching staff has given us a clear identity and a more or less valuable style of football, which is very important in the world of football. Garitano and Ferreira have brought coherence and they have communicated well with this squad.”
It was the previous Board of Directors who made the decision to promote Garitano in early December, but Elizegi also placed his faith in the manager. Now he says that the trust has been repaid and Garitano deserves to continue leading the team after this season.
“Our support of the decision made by the previous Board to bet on Gaizka Garitano has been repaid. The team has earned 26 points since the coaching change and that, at least, deserves a full season. Gaizka and his team deserve a full season and the chance to work from the summer with calm and perspective. My hope is that Gaizka will be wearing the tracksuit at Lezama on 1 July.”
One issue that has yet to be addressed is the renewal of captain Markel Susaeta. Elizegi made it clear that the 31-year-old is held in the highest regard, though negotiations haven’t taken place at this point. The President was also asked about future transfers and admitted that the club is monitoring every player that qualifies to wear the Athletic shirt.
“It’s impossible not to value what Susaeta has meant to the club. Playing 504 games is difficult, not to mention the commitment he’s shown on and off the field. The respect that this Board has towards Susaeta is paramount. Nobody has discussed the future at this point. There are a lot of decisions to make and there are important assignments that must be decided on. It’s very difficult to say goodbye to any player but we also have to say hello to others. There are players waiting for the call from Athletic. Every week we are analyzing everything that is happening in the lives of all the players who can play for Athletic.”
With only 10 games left this season, Elizegi is hoping to see the team take every single point. He knows it won’t be easy, but he would also enjoy seeing Aritz Aduriz back on the field with Susaeta continuing to play a big role in the team.
“When I close my eyes, I dream of 30 points from the last 10 games. I know it’s difficult, but I also dream that Aduriz will score a penalty with a Panenka and Susaeta will be putting in crosses from the wing. In November and December the fans had a list of casualties and they had crossed out several players. Now it’s hard for me to cross out any player. If anything, Garitano and Alkorta have given us many options.”
With money ruling everything in today’s football Elizegi doesn’t want to see the same thing happen with the women’s game. He revealed that Athletic have had constant dialogue with the league offices and the Spanish Football Federation and wants to keep it that way.
“Financial doping makes Athletic’s journey in professional football more and more difficult. We don’t want the same conditions that have happened in men’s football to happen in women’s football. We continue to say the same thing to Tebas and Rubiales. We try to keep communication practically constant, direct and weekly. They have both done the same for us.”
Elizegi’s Board may have been voted into office during the middle of the season, but they have assumed responsibility of the finances for the entire year. The President intends to stand by all of his promises and wants to continue improving the atmosphere at San Mamés.
“We are now responsible for this financial year that started on 1 July, 2018. We have fulfilled our words and what has been demanded so we are 100% responsible for the results this season. San Mamés should have the ability to face each match as a special and unique day. We must face every game as if it were the only one. Our goal is to fill the stands with Athleticzales.”
In closing, Elizegi was asked about the recent statements of Fernando Llorente who claimed that Athletic didn’t reach out to him in January. The President wouldn’t get into the situation, but did point out that four different players scored goals over the weekend.
“Llorente said that Athletic had not contacted him in the winter market. What the club does have is the obligation to have proof of the contracts of all the players who are likely to play for Athletic. We have a lot of options. Over the weekend 4 players scored goals (Williams, Kodro, Vicente, and Villalibre) and they did so at different levels.”
Athletic have been taking it one game at a time this season under Garitano, but Rafa Alkorta has to keep an eye on the future. The Sporting Director has already started planning for the future and Garitano is expected to sign a contract renewal within the next few days. With just 10 games left to play the Zurigorri are in the race for European qualification and could aspire for even more next year.