Mikel Rico “I Don’t Know What Will Happen But I Love Athletic”
Mikel Rico returned to the starting lineup on Wednesday for the first time in six months and his experience helped lead Athletic to a tough 1-0 win over Leganés. Before the match, manager Gaizka Garitano praised the 34-year-old who was appreciative of the kind words. He told Athletic TV after the game that Garitano has turned around the entire season.
“Gaizka has made his mark on the locker room. He is a real guy. The team does what he asks and we are in good hands. When a coach speaks well of you it’s nice. I’m grateful because being out of the team is hard and it’s nice to be valued. We suffered a lot today. Leganés pressure you constantly, but we earned the three very important points. We knew that Leganés like to put in crosses and then with the wind and rain the game was complicated.”
Rico recognizes that it’s taken a lot for him to get back on the field. He was tired at the end of the game, but the only thing that matters is that Athletic took all three points on the road.
“It’s been almost six months since I played and I finished the game quite tired, although I’m happy for this victory at a very difficult field. It wasn’t a very exciting game, but we played well to get a good result. My legs were tired and that’s normal no matter how you prepare or train. You want to be at a good level when you get the chance to compete.”
The midfielder admitted that every player in the squad wants to be on the field. That hasn’t been easy with the team playing so well lately. Still, Rico has trained hard to be ready when the chance came for him to play again.
“Of course, everyone wants to play and that’s difficult. The team is winning and doing well so that makes it harder to get chances. The injury had me sidelined for three months which hurt me, especially because it came at a time where I was on the field regularly. You have to train well and know that sooner or later you will get chances.”
Unless something changes, Mikel Rico will be leaving Athletic this summer. His contract is set to expire in June and the club doesn’t plan on offering a renewal. When asked about the situation by Fuera de Juego, Rico said that he just wants to enjoy the time he has right now and worry about the rest later on.
“I want to enjoy the four remaining matches. I have played little and I don’t know what will happen, but I love Athletic. I am delighted to have been here and if I don’t continue here I’m happy for the time I’ve had. I’m not thinking about the summer. I’m thinking about winning on Saturday and taking another step. The rest we will see later.”
Wednesday’s win saw Athletic take a three-point lead over Alavés for 7th place in the La Liga table. They will host Alavés at San Mamés this Sunday where a win could essentially seal a top 7 finish for the Lions. “Our objective is Europe”, Rico said confidently. “The game against Alavés is vital.” Every single point is crucial with just four games remaining and qualifying for Europe is a very real possibility for the Zurigorri.