Julen Guerrero “It Would Be Nice To See My Son At Athletic”
Julen Guerrero may have retired from football in 2006 but he’s never been able to stay away from the game. The Athletic legend is currently the manager for Spain’s U16 team where he is also coaching his son, Julen Jon Guerrero, who is enrolled at Real Madrid’s academy. The 45-year-old was recently a guest on Radio Popular where he discussed the current state of Athletic and what it’s like balancing the roles of father and coach.
“Normally, I make my decisions easily and it’s already done. There is no need to analyze it. I know perfectly the qualities and characteristics of the players. After the two tournaments that we have played, he is is the top scorer. He’s doing well and that’s why he’s here. He behaves like a normal kid, like everyone else. I treat him the same way as the other players and he has the same level of demand. We understand clearly how to handle it.”
Guerrero thinks that his son plays a similar style of football that he did throughout his career. He took a moment to praise Jon’s strengths and hopes that they will help him reach the highest level of football. At the moment he’s more focused on his son’s development, but he also admitted that he would like to see him at Athletic Club one day.
“He looks a lot like me, but the left-footed version. More or less he plays the same position. He arrives late into the box, can score goals, has vision, and he knows how to play his role. I hope that those characteristics serve him well. It would be very nice to see my son at Athletic. What he has to do right now is enjoy every day and learn. Whatever will come will come. You don’t have to go crazy. Right now training and development are what’s important. I’m focused more on the day to day. It’s a long process and he’s still a Cadete, but it would be nice to see him at Athletic.”
Speaking of Athletic, Guerrero is very open to the idea of returning to his club in some capacity. Right now he’s already under contract and wouldn’t take another job without first talking with the Spanish Football Federation. Guerrero is happy in his current role, though he’s always willing to do what he can for Athletic.
“Football is my life and I like to train. Returning to Athletic? First of all, I respect the Spanish Federation and I have a contract. I am a person of my word and I wouldn’t do anything without talking to them, but I am Athletic and I’m always willing to help. Things will come when they have to, if they have to. I like things to happen naturally. I don’t know if they have something in mind and I enjoy what I’m doing now. I don’t like to look much further than tomorrow. If it has to happen one day it will happen.”
Like many players during his era, Guerrero came up through the Lezama system before eventually reaching the first team. When asked what the club needs to do to retain their top players he explained that things are a lot different today. Being a successful club is a great way to convince players to stay, but Guerrero also understands the importance of teaching the value of the Athletic shield.
“It’s complicated today, it’s not the same. In my day were all mostly from home and we were taken to the academy by our parents or others in the area. Now there are national agencies that don’t care much about the team. We have to face up to this situation and look for ways to keep players from leaving. You have to be a winning team that is fighting for things and you have to continue with the philosophy of a top team. Although some have left and played finals for other clubs, Athletic have to be above all else. Lezama has to have a good selection of players, methodology, coaches, and winners. The Athletic shield is the greatest and you wear it with pride because you are defending a feeling. They have to feel it every day.”
During his career, Guerrero played with several great strikers. Today that position is a bit scarce and there has been talk of bringing Fernando Llorente back to the club. Guerrero weighed in on the possibility, saying that it’s still very complicated, while also praising Ibai Gómez who made his return in January.
“Llorente is another alternative, but years go by and he’s gotten older. It’s getting more complicated. Ibai was having a fantastic season with Alavés. He came back well because of his characteristics and what he could bring the team. He has a glove on his foot, great crosses, and brings energy. He can and should contribute. He will do it, we have to see if he has continuity.”
Guerrero definitely sees the need for more options at striker and was glad to see the club sign Kenan Kodro on the last day of the transfer window. The market was limited for the Basques, but the club legend sees qualities in Kodro that could really help the team. Guerrero also hopes that Aritz Aduriz will continue playing next season because he brings something that no one else can right now.
“Striker is a position that is quite vacant. The club is having difficulties finding relief for the position. Kodro is an alternative that they have trusted and we all hope it goes well. Little by little he will have more minutes and will become comfortable. There weren’t really any other options and it’s important that the club looked for someone in that position. Hopefully Aduriz continues and we can enjoy him more. He is unique, we know the level of performance that he gives. I also think he will be honest about if he will continue or not. If he says he will keep playing it’s because he will be performing at his best level for Athletic.”
Markel Susaeta has also been a major topic of conversation over the past few weeks. The captain’s current contract is set to expire in June, though renewal talks are expected to begin sometime soon. Guerrero trusts that Susaeta is held with the highest regard. That being said, he also recognizes that the club doesn’t want to make any quick decisions
“Susaeta is a player who always gives everything. They will be waiting until the last day to see what the objective is. The coach will have to sit down with those who run the club and decide on the squad, the signings, and those who will be promoted. It’s not decided over night. They will not want to make any hasty decisions. It’s up to him to wait a bit, but the club and the coach will hold him in good esteem.”
Guerrero has enjoyed seeing the team’s success under manager Gaizka Garitano, but it wasn’t easy to turn the season around. He concluded that it’s only natural that Garitano continues as the Mister next season. If the team can keep getting good results they could also challenge for European qualification.
“Gaizka and his coaching staff are doing really well and it would be normal that they continue. When they arrived the main objective was to see a solid a reliable team that could compete with anyone. That has been fulfilled and it wasn’t easy. With greater tranquility, the team will grow and can start preparing things for the coming season. If they have a couple of positive results in a row they could fight for Europe, although it is difficult to overcome those who are above. Next season they will have more to do in many aspects. I’m sure it will turn out well.”
Not much has changed since the December elections, but Guerrero knows it’s only temporary. President Aitor Elizegi and the other members of the Board have spent the last few months analyzing the current state of affairs and will begin to put their plan into motion when the current season comes to an end.
“The elections were an uncertainty. Everything was so close and we didn’t know what was going to happen. The change happened. Now it’s a new stage and we have to let them work. The new Board will be taking advantage of this time to see what there is and from June there will be changes if they have to make them. It’s an exciting challenge. Elizegi is everywhere and he will certainly give everything for Athletic. It has been his dream, hence the energy. We have to wish him the best of luck. I hope it’s a great time.”
Guerrero also enjoyed the reign of former President Josu Urrutia whom he says should be proud of the work that was accomplished during his 7 years at Ibaigane. At the same time, Javier Clemente has returned to coaching as the new manager of the Basque National Team and Guerrero is convinced that Clemente will be very successful in his role.
“There were many different moments during Urrutia’s time. Happy endings and others that were nervous. Seven years go a long way. It’s difficult to continue on a constant line of being at a high level. We will be happy with the things he has done, focusing on the complicated moments is a waste of time. He did things his way, what he saw best. Clemente is very excited. He likes to train and he has always had that little urge to lead. He will do really well. He’s competitive and a winner. He will prepare for the matches with the highest demand. I’m happy for him. I’m sure he is happy with his new challenge.”
Athletic fans have been hugely outspoken about their desire to see Julen Guerrero return to the club. While Sporting Director Rafa Alkorta hasn’t outright said that he will offer Guerrero a coaching role at Lezama, he has hinted at the fact that he will reach out to several former players. In the meantime, Guerrero will continue leading the Spain U16 team, but it may only be a matter of time before he and his son are wearing the Athletic shield together.