Andoni López Determined To Earn His Place At Athletic This Summer
Andoni López is facing one of the most important summers of his young career. Last year the left-back failed to earn a place in the Athletic first team after being promoted and was sent on loan to Almeria in the second division. Now he will return to Bilbao where he hopes to fight for a place under manager Gaizka Garitano and realize his dream of playing at San Mamés.
“My goal is to go back and do the preseason, start a new season, and from there you don’t know what can happen”, López said in a recent Almeria radio show. “I will train 100% as I always do and kill for a job there. Playing at Athletic is what I want. It’s what everyone wants when they spend the preseason with Athletic. I will make myself seen and Garitano will decide. If the coach believes that I can be in the team then I will have to keep fighting.”
Almeria’s Sporting Director has publically stated that he would like to extend López’s loan for another year if there is a chance to do so. The 23-year-old was quick to point out that he’s only thinking about earning his place at Athletic, though he would be open to staying at Almeria if he is unable to convince Garitano.
“If I do leave on loan again I will continue like I did here. I don’t know if it will be here or somewhere else, but I have to give 100% in everything. I have offers from clubs in the Segunda for loans, but I also know this city well. I’m not thinking about extending my loan here wither because I think it would hurt my preseason in Bilbao. What I want is to stay there. The players there want to be at Athletic and be a part of the team next year. There won’t be a place for everyone and if you can’t stay, you must leave on loan and consider all the options.”
López went on to admit that joining Almeria was difficult. He’s spent his entire life in Bizkaia and knew that the squad would be different from what he is used to. Looking back, the defender is very happy with his experience and says the players at Almeria helped him adjust to a new challenge.
“When I arrived I knew it was complicated because Athletic is different. The squad is like none other in the world. Here, with all the bad things that have happened, my teammates have been spectacular. They have helped me a lot, the veterans and the young players. This was the first year I left home and I have been very comfortable. The team is incredible and this has been a very positive season.”
Now that the season has come to an end, López is able to reflect on his year abroad. The Lezama product admitted that he could have been even better for Almeria, but still sees his loan as a success because he is leaving a better player than when he first arrived last year.
“It was a period of learning, two parts of a wave. I leave with a bitter feeling because I think I could have given much more. Injuries kept me from contributing more, but football is like that. I prefer to look at the good I’m happy because of the minutes I’ve played. I’ve played well, competed well, and fulfilled the goal that I set when I arrived. I am leaving a better player than when I arrived and for that I’m happy.”
Like other young players, Andoni López will face a major test this summer as he tries to earn his place in the team. Yuri Berchiche and Mikel Balenziaga will be his competition and both performed well under Garitano last season. That being said, López was a key part of Garitano’s Bilbao Athletic team two years ago and the 23-year-old is determined to prove himself to the Mister.