Unai Nuñez “Those Of Us Who Are Here Will Fight So That Athletic Is Where It Deserves To Be”
Spain U21 will try to lift another EURO title this summer and Athletic defender Unai Nuñez is expected to play a major role in the team. The 22-year-old was in danger of missing the tournament after barely featuring for the Lions last season, but his exceptional limited performances convinced Luis de la Fuente to include him in the squad. Nuñez recently spoke with Manel Bruña of Mundo Deportivo and explained that he understands how difficult it was to be named in the team.
“I have high hopes. What I have to do now is work my hardest and prove to the coach that I am 100% so he can count on me for the Euros. I was not lucky enough to be called up by the coach last time because I wasn’t playing at Athletic. I understood and knew that if I had a great match and did well I would have the opportunity to come. The five games I played I did well and I’m lucky that I was called again.”
Looking ahead to this summer’s tournament, Nuñez knows it won’t be easy. Every opponent is strong and Spain will have to be at their best if they are going to lift the trophy. Nuñez believes that he was left out of last week’s Euskadi squad because he is with the Spain U21 team, though he never got a call from manager Javier Clemente.
“Everyone knows that this is a very complicated tournament. There are good teams and everyone hsa great players. We are facing it in the best possible way. We will do our best to have a great tournament, finish as high as possible, and, of course, win the European championship. I suppose being with the U21 team kept me from being called by Euskadi. Clemente didn’t call me and I was lucky to be summoned by De la Fuente.”
Nuñez didn’t enjoy consistency last year and recognizes that it was an odd season. The Lions were battling relegation by Christmas but were able to turn things around and fight for Europe by the end of the campaign.
“It was a different season. No one expected the start to be the way it was, but we knew how to get out of that situation and we had the opportunity to qualify for Europe until the last game. Unfortunately, we didn’t fulfill that objective. When we came out of the bottoms of the table we saw it was possible to fight for Europe but it didn’t happen.”
When asked about the coaching change that saw Gaizka Garitano take over in December the defender simply stated that it happens at every club. It was important for the team to adapt quickly to the new manager’s ideas and that is what brought success early on and turned the season around.
“Coaching changes happen at every club. As a team we have to adapt ourselves as quickly as possible. Our job is to play and train at the highest level to give our best. Every coach has a different ideology. One is individual marking and the other is more positioning, of thinking first of all defensively and then going on the attack. With Berizzo we did things wrong that could have gone well. It’s the same with Garitano. Things could have gone wrong but we had a good season with him.”
Nuñez also took a moment to praise teammate Iker Muniain for signing a contract renewal without a release clause. The 22-year-old believes it’s a great thing for the club, but he wasn’t happy with the situation that saw Markel Susaeta decide not to continue at San Mamés.
“Muniain’s renewal is great for Athletic. He’s a top player and the more players there are in the team, the better we will be. When it comes to Susaeta leaving, these are decisions that the club makes. Someone who has been an icon that will remain in the history of the club, I don’t think it’s nice that it ended this way. It’s the decision that the club made.”
In closing, Nuñez fervently stated that the Athletic philosophy should never be altered. “We are always going to have this ideology and I don’t think it will change”, he said. “Those of us who are here and those who will come will fight so that Athletic is where it deserves to be, which is in the first division.” Nuñez also remembered Kuko Ziganda fondly for giving him the chance to join the first team last season. “I will always remember Kuko for the rest of my life. Thanks to him I’m in the first team and I had the opportunity last year to have a good season.”