Kuko Ziganda “It Was A Dream To Train Athletic”
The Kuko Ziganda era of Athletic Club feels like a long time ago. Just last year the manager was leading the team to a 16th place finish in the La Liga table and which led to his dismissal at the end of the season. After leaving the club, Ziganda took some time away from football and recently returned with his family from a 6 month trip to England. On Monday he spoke with Radio Popular and revealed that he’s ready to coach again.
“I took a sabbatical to rest and reflect. My body asked me for a break and I took this year to reflect on everything. The past few years have been frantic with little time for my family and I needed to take a break. It’s been enough time. I’m preparing for the future with a lot of desire to train and find a new project and remain linked to the world of football.”
Looking at last season Ziganda admitted that things were difficult. The team felt as though they could compete at a high level, but it never happened. Even though his stint as the manager didn’t go according to plan, Ziganda is proud to have served as the manager of Athletic.
“It was a tough year because we won very little. We had the feeling of wanting to be successful but weren’t able to. On a personal level it was a good year that I could personally pride myself on. I’m proud and it was a dream to train Athletic, to train at San Mamés. I feel like the luckiest person in the world, but professionally things didn’t go the way we dreamed or wanted for several reasons. The world of football is very demanding and we know how it works, for the good and bad.”
Ziganda knows that he will likely never get the chance to coach Athletic again. That being said, he would do things differently if he had the opportunity. He stated that it’s hard for the club to sign players due to the philosophy, but says that reinforcements are needed to keep the squad dynamic.
“I’ve given a lot of thought to how the year went and probably today I would make other decisions, but it went this way and you can’t change it. If I had the chance again, which is impossible, I would change some decisions. I think that one of the handicaps that teams have are strengthening the squad. At Athletic, because of the philosophy, it’s more difficult to make signings, but it’s important that new players come with a clean head to add freshness to the squad. It helps that the fans demand more.”
Despite his struggles leading the first team, Ziganda was a massive success as the manager of Bilbao Athletic. He openly discussed the team’s season in the Segunda and said that it was difficult to be competitive with several talented players being sent elsewhere on loan.
“When some players were sent on loan in the second division you think that if they were with you they could have helped the team with more experience. At the same time more players were growing in the second division and had more chances of reaching the first team. Going back to Bilbao Athletic? With time one learns not to say no to anything because things change, but at the moment I don’t see it.”
Ziganda may not have had the support of the fans while coaching the first team, but he always felt their love as a player. He recognizes that the team didn’t give the fans much to be excited about, though he felt as though he had the strength to continue as the manager. In the end, he knows that leaving was best for the team.
“As a player, I always felt very close to the fans, very respected and valued by the fans. I have always said that they have given me much more than I was able to give as a coach. We didn’t play well and the atmosphere was not conducive because we weren’t able to engage. I did have the strength to go on, but it wasn’t right to start the season with me again. It would have been impossible for anyone. Starting with another coach gave illusion and was good for the team.”
The former Athletic manager admitted that he hasn’t watched much of the team this season. He was able to enjoy last Wednesday’s match against Levante and said that he has kept up with everything through the news. He refused to discuss potential transfers saying that you have to be inside the club to know what’s going on.
“The only game I saw was on Wednesday against Levante and another one during the week at Vallecas. I did follow the news and the reaction has been spectacular from the moment he took over the team in a very delicate situation. Gaizka knows the players and what you have to do is respect the players who are already there. I am sure that if they see players are mature enough to play for the first team they will be introduced. To talk about possible transfers you have to be inside the club. I can’t talk about Llorente because I haven’t seen him, nor can I talk about Galarreta, although I’ve read that he’s having a great year at Las Palmas. There are others who have to make these decisions.”
Thinking back to the years under President Josu Urrutia fills Ziganda with pride and joy. He believes that the former President always put the club first and should be remembered as one of the best to lead Athletic. Meanwhile, he didn’t hide the fact that there were some disagreements with former Sporting Director José María Amorrortu, but also said that they agreed on a lot as well.
“I very positively value the time when Josu Urrutia was the head of the club. He was an example and I identify with him in the goals he achieved. He was always at the service of the club. He always put the club above himself. I’m grateful to him at a personal level and also for how he was able to lead the club. I spent many hours with Amorrortu. I know that there was some controversy with decisions, but we have a lot of personal respect because we agreed on many things. We did disagree sometimes because my discussing the long term isn’t easy.”
In closing, Ziganda praised new Sporting Director Rafa Alkorta who has shown a lot of enthusiasm for the position. He wished the former defender all the best and also gave his take on the future of Aritz Aduriz.
“I know that Alkorta has tremendous enthusiasm. He has a great responsibility and what he needs is to have peace of mind and support. I wish him all the best. We will have to give him time to carry out his idea. I understand that Aduriz’s continuity depends on him and we have to leave him to make the decision. We know everything that Aritz has done so far and he will make a good decision. He is mature enough to know if he wants to continue or not.”
Kuko Ziganda is now preparing for his next coaching role. There’s been talk that he could return to Lezama in some capacity, though he will likely have other offers from clubs, potentially in the Segunda or other parts of Europe. His time at Athletic didn’t go the way that everyone had hoped, but Ziganda always served the club to the best of his ability and should be remembered as one was of the best managers to ever coach Bilbao Athletic.