Mikel Rico “I Want To Go To Huesca And They Want Me To Be There”
Mikel Rico achieved his childhood dream in 2013 when he left Granada to sign with Athletic. Six years later the midfielder has made 176 appearances for the Lions, scoring 14 goals, and is now preparing to say goodbye to San Mamés. The club announced on Tuesday that Rico and Ander Iturraspe will not be offered contract renewals and the 34-year-old admitted to Cope Bilbao that the decision didn’t come as a surprise.
“This was coming. A lot of players have brought competition and there are others who are away on loan. I keep the thorn of having been available 100% from the first day. It’s impossible for me to have any reproach for the club. I am eternally grateful to have been here for six years. The day I signed, I didn’t imagine the time I was going to be here. I have enjoyed every game, with good and bad days, and I’m happy to have been part of Athletic.”
Rico wanted to play for Athletic since he was a child but was never able to enroll in Lezama. Still, he found a way to make his dream a reality and says that he has always felt great affection from the fans and those at the club.
“I am the prototype of the type of player for this club, from home, who feels Athletic. I wish I could have been here since I was 12, but it hasn’t been like that. There is a path for everyone. It’s been a dream for me because this is where I’ve always wanted to be. I have characterized myself for being hardworking, a professional, and for giving everything for the club. I have had very good days and very bad days. I have felt very loved by the fans, the club, and by my teammates.”
When Rico looks back on his career at Athletic one game sticks out more than the others. He admitted that the Champions League fixture against Napoli at San Mamés is the match that he will always remember, even more than the club’s Spanish Super Cup win over Barcelona.
“For me, the most special match was the second leg of the Champions League against Napoli. That’s the one I remember most. The atmosphere was incredible, with the San Mamés full, and the game was complicated. I’m telling you, it gives me goosebumps. It was a brutal match. I remember that game even more than winning the Super Cup.”
Rico’s time at Athletic is now coming to an end. His contract will expire on 30 June and he will be looking to a new club to call home. The midfielder actually explained that he would like to return to Huesca where he played from 2007-2010, though nothing has been decided at this point.
“This stage is over. New challenges begin, new illusions, and a change of scenery. It’s good for me on a professional level because the role I’ve had this year is hard to accept. I see that I need a change. I want to go to Huesca and they want me to be there. There is mutual affection. That is one of the options, perhaps the clearest, but nothing is finalized. It’s no secret that I would like to play at Huesca sooner or later.
When asked about the current situation with Markel Susaeta, Rico said that it’s very strange. He believes that fans have said some hurtful things about the captain and just hopes that everything is sorted out in a positive way.
“I think it’s a rare situation because, in the end, he’s a player who has played more than 500 matches for Athletic. Many things have been said that aren’t true. It’s been weird. You’re at Athletic, where you’ve been your entire life, and the last thing you expect is for all of this to happen without you doing anything wrong. Markel isn’t having a good time. Many things have been said that hurt and maybe all of this could have been done better.”
Athletic still have several other contract situations that must be handled. Susaeta, Aritz Aduriz, Sabin Merino, and Xabi Etxeita will all see their deals expire in June and it will be up to Gaizka Garitano and Rafa Alkorta to make the final decisions. Changes are coming this summer, but for now it’s a time to celebrate and reflect on the careers of Ander Iturraspe and Mikel Rico.