Cristian Ganea “I Don’t Want To Leave On Loan Again”
When Cristian Ganea was first signed by Athletic two summers ago the Romanian expected to fight for the starting left-back role. However, before he could even join the team the club had signed Yuri Berchiche which immediately limited his minutes. Ganea would leave for Numancia on loan in January where he excelled and returns to Athletic with the hope of cementing his place in the team. The 27-year-old recently spoke with Aitor Martínez of DEIA where he admitted that last year was difficult.
“It was a tough season, with many injuries. Everything happened to us. If we didn’t concede in the first minute, we would concede in the 93rd. We lost a lot of points which made us suffer. I guess it was good to leave on loan. I played in 16 games, almost all of them, and was able to show myself. They treated me well. Coming to Numancia helped me a lot because I had not played for seven months. I noticed it at the beginning. I had trouble starting, but then everything went very well. The experience was good. It has made me strong and I have gone through delicate situations. Seeing you down in the classification makes you go to the game with more desire to come out from below and that makes you better.”
Joining Numancia in January proved to be the right move. Ganea explained that the manager and Sporting Director both had a lot of faith in him and gave him the chances to play regular minutes and prove himself.
“Both César Palacios, the Sporting Director, and Aritz López Garai, the coach, loved me. They gave me confidence when it came to playing. They told me that they were looking for an attacking left back and that I would have options to play. I knew they wanted me to come and I barely thought about it for a couple of days. I’ve very happy with my performances. As I said before, it was difficult at first, but then I did quite well.”
When Ganea was first presented as an Athletic players questions were immediately raised over whether or not he could defend well in the Spanish league. Some said he could only be successful as a winger, but the Romanian doesn’t understand where those ideas came from because he believes he’s a strong defender.
“I heard many people talking about it and I’m not sure why. Somebody started saying it and it stuck I guess. But if they see me play they know it’s not like that. The times I played with Athletic I think I was pretty good and I was fine in the friendlies. It’s something that came to people and I’m not sure why. Somebody started with that and it has stuck to people. But then if they see me, it’s not like that. In the times I played with Athletic I think I was pretty good and in the friendlies I was fine. Hopefully next season I will be given more opportunities and I can prove it because talking about it doesn’t help. On the field is where you have to prove it.”
At this point, Ganea knows that he still has to prove himself. He worked hard to be ready for preseason training last summer, but it was still a big adjustment to make. The left-back hopes to be given the chance to play a few games in a row and show what he can really do.
“Right now, I feel that I have to play to show if I am worth it or not. I want to have that opportunity. Give me two or three games in a row, let me start a game to be able to prove if I’m brave or not. But for that to happen I have to start the preseason very well and finish it well. Then I will wait for the opportunity, which I hope to have. Last year I started my preseason three weeks early. I knew what kind of coach Berizzo was, that he linked the physical aspect of the game and that he was going to demand hard work. I wanted to be on the same level as the others. I didn’t notice a difference in that aspect. When training started I had a bit of difficulty adapting because I came from a lower league, was with 40 new players, and my life had changed.”
Ganea struggled at the beginning of preseason last summer due to a serious allergy. He never stopped training, but the issue definitely affected his production. Just when he was starting to get minutes Gaizka Garitano took over as the manager and told him that he would need to leave on loan in order to play regular minutes.
“We started the preseason and that week I had an allergy that made me have a bad time. I didn’t stop because I knew the importance of doing the preseason with the team. I was in discomfort and barely slept. There was a friendly that I played in and because of the allergy I wasn’t at my best level and that’s when I lost chances. The opportunities didn’t come. Then Gaizka came and told me the same thing, that I wouldn’t have minutes. A coach who arrives in the middle of the season has to trust the most experienced players and I understood it perfectly. I would do the same. That’s why I left, to play and enjoy football.”
Going from being a starter every week in Romania to not even being called up in Spain was a big change for Ganea. It wasn’t easy to train every day knowing that you wouldn’t play so joining Numancia was the defender’s best chance to enjoy football again. Now he’s ready for his second preseason and to fight for a place in the team.
“I’m used to playing. I learned during my time at Athletic, but it was hard for me not to play. There came a time when it was frustrating to train and not have the prize of being able to play. That’s why I chose to come to Numancia, to play. I spoke with Gaizka and he told me that I was one of the players of the squad he knew the least and that I should go to the Segunda to play, that he knew the league and knew it was tough. As I already said, I started with a lot of enthusiasm, until I saw that I wasn’t even being called for matches. The desire didn’t go away. It’s always there, but something was missing that gave me courage. Now things have changed completely. I will go to the preseason knowing everything and everyone and it will be different. I hope to do well and play.”
Yuri Berchiche and Mikel Balenziaga are both proven veterans so Ganea knows he will face stiff competition at his position. That being said, he believes he just needs to be given the chance to show that he can contribute to the team.
“My position is complicated. There are many of us who want to play and it’s not easy to earn minutes. You have to fight in every training sesssion. I’m fighting with Yuri and Balenziaga. Both have a lot of expereience. They are above me, but that doesn’t take away my desire to continue training. I hope someday the opportunity will come and I’m sure I’ll take advantage. I would also like to play on the wing because I see options there too.”
When asked about the conversation with Gaizka Garitano before leaving for Numancia, Ganea admitted that he was really appreciative that the manager was honest with him. The Romanian understood Garitano’s decision and says that he also had a good relationship with Eduardo Berizzo before the manager change in December.
“He was honest with me. I liked that. He told me ‘I do not know you. You will have few chances to play with me and the team’s situation right now doesn’t give me the opportunity to try different players. I will trust the players I know’. I understood it perfectly. I did not want to go another six months without playing because I was going to drop both physically and mentally. I saw Berizzo as a good guy. He was sincere. He told me I had the quality to play and that he trusted me, but then something was always missing. I got along well with him, but something went wrong. We all got along well with him, but the results didn’t help him either.”
As Ganea prepares for his second summer at Athletic he knows that he must be a little more selfish and show his quality. Last year he was too passive because he came from a smaller league and believes that may have cost him chances. Now he knows what to expect.
“I don’t know what I’m missing. Maybe I need to have more personality in training and do things without thinking about it anymore. I can be more selfish. I regret that a bit, but it wasn’t easy either because I was with new teammates and a life change. That influenced me at the time to not have as much nerve in training. I came to train every day at Lezama with top players. I adapted easily at Numancia in that aspect. I’ve had good performances. Maybe I could have given much more, but I go back to the same thing. It was difficult at first, but then I had very good games. Then I got injured at the worst moment and was out for almost a month. I didn’t lose confidence.”
Ganea is looking forward to having a strong preseason without any issues like last year. Despite barely playing for Athletic, he learned a lot and admits that he was surprised by how well his new teammates treated him when he first arrived.
“I hope I can have a strong preseason without setbacks like last year. I also want to see my teammates. The six months I was there were great. That team is great. You are with them every day and you learn a lot. I was surprised by how much humility they showed me. I came from an inferior league and you think these players are in the Primera and earn a lot of money, but they are very normal. They helped me a lot. From my first day they gave me advice and helped me.”
When asked about the possibility of leaving on loan again Ganea made himself very clear. The Romanian has no plans to leave Athletic because doing so would prevent him from being able to prove himself. In truth, Ganea doesn’t think he was given a fair chance last year. This summer he’s committed to playing his best and convincing Garitano to keep him in the squad.
“I’m going to start my best because I want to stay. I don’t want to leave on loan again because when will I have the chance to prove myself? I want to be there and get that opportunity to play two or three games in a row. We will see what happens. It depends on me, but not entirely on me. I will go into the preseason with the goal of continuing and showing that I am worth it. I don’t think I’ve been given the opportunities I deserved.”
In closing, Ganea revealed that the club has been in touch with him. “Alkorta sent me a message after I was called to the Romania team”, he said. “He congratulated me. I spoke with Gaizka on the day of the Celta match because I was watching the game at San Mamés. He was interested in how I was doing. He told me that he’s watched me and that in the summer we would see each other.” After a successful loan spell with Numancia, Cristian Ganea returns to Athletic with a chip on his shoulder and the desire to prove that he deserves to play at San Mamés.