Iker Muniain “Experience Makes You More Mature And Helps You See Football In Another Way”
For the first time in 7 years Iker Muniain will wear the Spain shirt again. He’s overcome serious injuries to get back to playing his best football and being called up to the Selection is a reward for all his hard work. The 26-year-old explained to Manel Bruña of Mundo Deportivo that, after all he’s been through, being back in the squad is very special.
“It’s a goal, a dream fulfilled to be able to return after so much time, after having a bad time with knee injuries. This reflects all the work, all the effort and sacrifices I’ve made to recover my best level. It’s always good to be called and a huge satisfaction. Reaching the Selection is the maximum reward for your hard work and, yes, it’s the culmination of all the work you’ve been doing since you were little. Players are ambitious and always want more, to win things, and to keep coming to the Selection. The last time I was called up I was practically a child. Experience makes you more mature and helps you see football in another way. You change your routines and habits and that helps you be at a better level.”
Muniain went on to say that he was very excited to see his name in the squad list. He certainly wasn’t expecting it, but feels that he’s earned his place. He also wished that his Athletic teammate and best friend Iñaki Williams was called up as well.
“My face lit up. It was a sensation that runs through your entire body. It was wonderful. It was something that is nice to experience and I’m very grateful to the coach and the coaching staff for their confidence. The work that you do with the club is reflected and you have a reward. I wish Iñaki was here. He’s a great player. We understand each other very well at our club, but in the end, it’s the coach who chooses the players. Whoever comes always contributes to the team.”
In a recent interview, Sergio Canales admitted that he had forgotten about the Selection because he had been away from the National Team for so long. It’s a feeling that Muniain relates with. The Athletic captain felt as though he had to start from scratch after his knee injuries and now he’s just trying to enjoy each moment as it comes.
“I agree with Sergio Canales who said he had forgotten about the Selection because when you have these serious injuries it’s as if you are back at the bottom and have to start from scratch, recover, and get back to your best and keep taking steps forward. It’s a long period that, thanks to God, everything went well and here we are fighting. There is a long way to go until EURO 2020. I want to think about the present, about what I’m living now and with my club I want to do the right things and get more calls from the Selection. ”
Muniain went on to explain what Luis Enrique has asked of the team. Spain will play an attacking style of football, but always with a focus on organized defending. These two weeks will be a good time for players like Muniain to prove themselves on the international stage and continue earning their place in the squad.
“Enrique has spoken with the whole team and has given several goals. He wants us to be a team that plays on the attack, that’s organized with a good defensive attitude, and protagonists with the ball. This is what has been asked of the Selection and there are many players who are working this week to get the best out of these games. Coming here always gives you hope. I don’t want to just be in this single call, so I must continue working to try to convince the coach that I can be here many more times. We are seeing that there are new players and the coach is betting on those who are in good form. That’s encouraging to everyone.”
Looking back to Athletic, Muniain talked about the difficulties of struggling under Eduardo Berizzo. No matter what the team did they just couldn’t get good results and a coaching change had to be made.
“The truth is that we had hard and difficult moments at the beginning of the season when we got into the fight against relegation. It was a delicate situation for a club as historic as Athletic. We were able to resolve and rectify the situation very well and now we are calmer. We even have options to fight for more important things like getting into Europe, which is what we want. Even those difficult moments help you.”
Ever since Gaizka Garitano took over the team Athletic have been playing at a very high level. Garitano has managed to get the very best out of the players and they hope that he will continue as the manager for years to come.
“At the beginning of the season it was hard to win against any opponent, since the arrival of Garitano it’s been totally different. At first glance, the change of coach has gone well because we have come from a bad dynamic. Berizzo has everyone’s utmost respect and admiration because he is a fantastic coach, a wonderful person who we developed a lot of love for in a short time. But, in football, results are the most important thing. Gaizka came and what he has done with the team is incredible. We are very grateful and we hope he will be with us for a long time.”
Athletic will continue to take it one game at a time, but Muniain admits that they are fighting for Europe. It will difficult with just a handful of matches left on the calendar, but the Lions are determined to fight until the very end.
“We are aware that there are fewer and fewer matches left to play and the distance is, I think, six points for the Europa League. It’s complicated, but we see it as possible. We have to get many points in final stretch of the season and if we continue with our current form we can be in the fight until the end.”
Iker Muniain and fellow Athletic star Iñigo Martinez will both be in action with Spain on Saturday as La Roja face off with Norway at the Mestalla in EURO 2020 qualifying. Spain figure to be one of the favorites to win the tournament.