Athletic Legends Give Gaizka Garitano Votes Of Confidence
When Gaizka Garitano took over as the Athletic manager back in December his only goal was to lead the team out of the relegation zone. He did much more than that. By the end of the season the Lions were competing for a place in the Europa League but fell just short as they finished 8th in the table. Now, with an entire summer to prepare, expectations are high.
“Gaizka knows the staff, the club, the fans, and the media”, said former manager Joaquin Caparros when asked about Garitano. “He will continue with the same idea, a strong and competitive team. He took over a team in a difficult situation and returned the essence of the club. He won’t abandon the Athletic DNA. It will be tough but Gaizka knows the ground he’s treading. Now he has the advantage of having the whole preseason to work on his concepts. The requirement of Athletic is something all coaches know. He will be true to his style because it worked. They will fight for Europe and they will be there.”
Caparros has no concerns about Athletic with Garitano leading the team. He fully believes that the Lions can compete for European qualification in the upcoming season and he certainly isn’t the only one. “We have to start the season with enthusiasm and conviction”, explained legendary defender Andoni Goikoetxea. The former Athletic star also gave his vote of confidence to the manager.
“I have full confidence in Garitano and his staff. Before you could say that he didn’t start the season, he didn’t put his entire plan together, but now that responsibility is his 100%. After the failure of Berizzo, Gaizka took the team and it was a success. The players know him, his system, and what he’s like. Last year they did well and I think they will continue on the same path. I see a beautiful leave campaign ahead. Athletic will play well.”
Expectations and excitement may be high, but every team is strong as noted by legendary striker Dani Ruiz-Bazán. “The difficulty of signing players is already there and every year it’s more complicated”, explained the former striker. “With the TV money everyone has access to good players and there are no easy opponents. Garitano has the preseason to prepare his own team, but he doesn’t have many possibilities to sign who he would like. It won’t be easy.”
From there, Dani explained that Garitano should be able to find even more success this season because he will have the entire summer to actually prepare the team. At the end of the day, the first motivation is always to continue in the Primera, but the legend says once that is accomplished the team can set their sights on Europe.
“Last year he couldn’t develop what he would’ve liked. He made the formula for salvation. Now he will enjoy more freedom, but in football the play depends on who you have. He knows what he has and when he completes the preseason he will have his system in place. I am one of those who think the first goal is ensuring salvation. We have a 121-year history and we have never gone down to the Segunda. It’s a success that is envied around the whole world. We have been able to do that mostly with our academy. Once this goal is achieved, then we can go for Europe.”
Gaizka Garitano almost did the unthinkable last season. Athletic were headed for relegation and he pulled the Lions up so far that they nearly qualified for Europe. After the managerial change Athletic were the 4th strongest team in La Liga and fans will expect the same results in the season to come. Last year is in the past, now it’s Europe or bust for Athletic Club.