Aitor Elizegi “I’m Not Worried About A Season Without Signings”
“It doesn’t look like there will be any signings this summer.” Those words spoken by Athletic Sporting Director on Monday night to TeleBilbao have set the expectation that there will be no new faces coming to San Mamés during the transfer window. Instead, six players from Bilbao Athletic will spend the preseason with the first team with hopes of proving that they can be the reinforcements that the squad needs.
President Aitor Elizegi had hoped to possibly sign a player like Ander Herrera, Javi Martinez, or Fernando Llorente but those options have been ruled out. “I’m not worried about a season without signings”, Elizegi said during his visit to Mirandés. “Garitano is calm and that makes me calm. An Athletic with six players coming up from below is a dream.”
Over the past few weeks reports have linked Athletic with a move for Torino winger Alex Berenguer, but the Italians have demanded a fee of at least €10 million which saw the Basques walk away. There’s been talk that the club has been looking to strengthen the wings, but the President believes there’s already enough talent at the position.
“Ibai and Córdoba are very good players and Iñigo Vicente is coming up. Muniain can also play on the wing. They are all very good. We have a lot of confidence in Córdoba and Vicente. Why can’t Córdoba be the one breaking defenses and putting balls into the box for the next ten years? Many of us from Bizkaia have been dreaming of Vicente doing what he’s done at Bilbao Athletic with the first team. Let’s wait and see if he can do it. We’re going to give him time. We also have Ibai who has become a great player and performed well for us last season.”
All six players who have been called up to the first team have shown incredible potential. Along with Vicente, Elizegi also took a moment to highlight midfielder Oihan Sancet who was sensation after returning from a torn ACL. “If we can see Sancet do for the first team what we saw him do in the last matches with Bilbao Athletic, San Mamés can be a party”, he said with a smile.
Apart from signings, Athletic have been in talks to renew the contract of Yeray, Unai Nuñez, and Raúl García. When asked about the situations Elizegi firmly stated that the best thing is for the two defenders to stay. He’s also hopeful that Raúl García will continue at the club for many more years.
“It’s difficult for Yeray and Nuñez to find a better team to play their position. They are recognized by the club and few others in Europe can offer them the comfort that Athletic offers for them to enjoy their work. I hope that Raúl continues with us for a long time. I hope he can be eternal and that, when he’s 38, we’ll still see him running at San Mamés.”
In closing, Elizegi once again put his full support behind manager Gaizka Garitano. “Gaizka is close to Lezama and I see him working very hard”, said the President. “When the preseason starts, we will find out right away if Gaizka is comfortable with the squad. I think that’s how he feels.” Whether or not the club makes any summer signings, it’s imperative that Athletic qualify for Europe next season after failing to do so for two consecutive years.