Iago Herrerín “We Have To Prove Who Really Deserves The Three Points”
Athletic will try to win their first game at the Santiago Bernabéu in 14 years when they travel to take on Real Madrid Sunday. Just last week former Athletic players Unai Bustinza and Javi Eraso played the Whites to a 1-1 draw and could have laid the groundwork for another shocking result. Iago Herrerín told Javier Beltrán of AS that he hasn’t spoken to his friends about that match, but recognizes the possibility of taking all three points in Madrid.
“I haven’t asked them about it, but I did see the game against Leganés. We are going to keep in mind that we are playing to get into Europe and that they can relax. We have to prove who really deserves the three points. I’m worried because Madrid is Madrid and they can score 7 goals at any time. It’s true that their situation isn’t the best, but I would fear them at any stage and at any time. We have to enjoy our moment because we are fighting for better things.”
Looking specifically at the Real Madrid goalkeepers, Herrerín admits that they have a lot of quality. Courtois and Navas are very different from each other but both are great. Whoever starts on Sunday will make things very difficult for Athletic.
“Courtois and Navas are two very difficult goalkeepers. I couldn’t say who I like more because they are both great. I was with Courtois at Atlético in his first year in the Primera. He already looked like a spectacular goalkeeper, like Hodei Oleaga with his height, size, and the way he covered space. Navas is the opposite. He’s fast, great with his feet, and has good reflexes. This year hasn’t been easy for him because he’s shown that he can do everything but hasn’t had the opportunities that he deserves. That’s the life of football, sometimes it’s great and other times it’s hard.”
When asked about the rumors that Kepa Arrizabalaga didn’t join Real Madrid last year because Zinedine Zidane rejected the transfer, Herrerín firmly stated that you can never know the truth with these matters. He still keeps up with Kepa, as well as former teammates, and isn’t concerned with what the media has to say about it all.
“Yes, Kepa could be in Madrid right now or he could have chosen to stay at Athletic. You never know what is true or not in football. That is a subject for the media. For me he’s the best goalkeeper I’ve ever trained with. I have a spectacular relationship with him. I still keep in contact with him. I love talking with former teammates, trying to help them and learn from them. Friendship is the most important thing that remains in football.”
Despite spending two years at Atlético Madrid, Herrerín doesn’t have any added motivation to win at the Bernabéu. He’s only concerned with taking the three points to help Athletic climb the table and continue to fight for European qualification this season.
“I don’t really think about going to the Bernabéu from the perspective of having played for Atlétco. I have very good memories and great friends from Atlético, but I want to go to the Bernabéu and try to get three points to help us in the table. I’m focused on right now and forget about the rest. Real Madrid has it all. They have players who can score from outside the box and others that can combine easily inside the box. In the end, you have to be aware of everything.”
If Athletic want to get a positive result against Madrid they will have to be wary of Karim Benzema. The striker has been deadly this season and Herrerín believes he’s one of the best players in the world.
“Benzema seems to be the best striker of all right now, taking away Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s a superclass forward. Those who don’t understand football only care about the goals. In the last game at the Bernabéu, I was on the bench with Aduriz and told me that he would like to have all everything that Benzema has. When Aduriz tells you that you know that he knows what he’s talking about. Benzema is incredible. He can score goals and is in a good moment.”
Herrerín’s contract with Athletic expires in 2021, but he isn’t thinking about that right now. The 31-year-old is exactly where he wants to be. It’s taken him years to earn the starting role at San Mamés and he just wants to enjoy every single game before worrying about a renewal in the future.
“It’s clear that I am where I want to be and it’s cost me a lot to get here. Who will pay €50 million for me? They’re not going to do that for me. It would be a dream to spend my entire career at Athletic. I’ve done that so far, other than the loan with Leganés. I hope there is a lot left and, at the moment, I’m focused on enjoying the next two years that I have left on my contract. After that everything will be decided.”
When Athletic take the field on Sunday they will be without several starters. Iker Muniain is expected to start on the right wing for the second straight game and Herrerín doesn’t see any problem with that. “Muniain could play as a goalkeeper if not for his height”, Herrerín said. “He excels in any position and makes opponents unbalanced and uncomfortable.” Muniain, Herrerín, and everybody else will have to be at their best to silence the Bernabéu this weekend and take points back home to Bilbao.