Luis De La Fuente “I Would Be Lying If I Said I Didn’t Want To Coach Athletic One Day”
Athletic were well represented by the Spain U21 team that won the European Championship over the weekend. Not only were Unai Simón and Unai Nuñez part of the squad, but manager Luis De La Fuente was also raised at Lezama and appeared in nearly 200 matches during his career at San Mamés. Since retiring, De La Fuente has found massive success as a coach.
The 58-year-old joined the Spanish Federation as a youth coach in 2013 and immediately impressed. In 2015 he led the U19 team to a European championship and in 2018 he guided the U18 team to a Gold Medal at the Mediterranean Games. Last year he took over the U21 team, replacing Albert Celades where the success has continued.
After lifting the trophy on Sunday, De La Fuente posed for pictures with his squad then also took a special picture with just Nuñez and Simón. The manager may now be coaching for the Federation, but Athletic will always be his home. “Athletic is the team of my soul”, he said in an interview with El Larguero.
De La Fuente didn’t hide the fact that he would like to return one day to the club he loves so dearly. “I have been a player, a delegate, a coach in the youth levels…In total, I’ve spent 18 years with Athletic. I would be lying if I said that I wouldn’t like to coach Athletic one day. Of course I would like to.”
Despite his interest in going back to Athletic at some point, De La Fuente admitted that he’s content coaching Spain’s U21 team right now. “I’m happy. I’m where I want to be and I’m also very comfortable. I want to be here with the RFRF, doing this job, and I’m already thinking about the September games and preparing for the next European championship. I’m not considering leaving this job because I’m happy doing it but if there is ever the slightest doubt you never know.”
In addition to coming through Lezama and playing for the first team, De La Fuente coached the Athletic Juvenil team in 2005 and managed Bilbao Athletic the following year. He then served as the Delegate for the first team before returning to coach at Lezama from 2009-2011. Luis De La Fuente has always shown a brilliant coaching mind and his success with Spain U21 indicates more triumphs to come.