Iker Muniain “We Are Athletic And We Always Have The Ambition To Compete And Win”
The start of the La Liga season is just over a month away and Athletic are intensely preparing for what will be a very important year. After failing to qualify for Europe in two consecutive seasons, the Lions know it’s imperative to secure a top-seven finish and that will take hard work. On Tuesday, captain Iker Muniain addressed the media and highlighted the fact that promoting players from Lezama is always the best way to add talent at the club.
“We’ve signed Jokin (Ezkieta) and the best signing at this club are always the ones who come from home, who come up from Bilbao Athletic. Those from Lezama are the ones that have always supported this club and there no better news than seeing them fight for a place in the team. It’s motivating and something that should excite the fans. There are reasons to be excited. People want new players to come in, but we already have them coming from the academy and that’s good news.”
Six players from Bilbao Athletic are training with the first team this summer and Muniain believes that they all have the potential to help the squad. They must train hard to prove themselves, but all of them have shown the potential to succeed at San Mamés.
“They are good players despite their ages. They’ve demonstrated maturity and know how to be on the field which is important. They are trained to give everything to this team and have to gain experience. It’s logical that there are expectations because they’ve shown the level to be here.”
Reflecting on the last two years, Muniain says that battling relegation has taught the team quite a bit. More than anything else, he’s proud of the way the players have fought and responded to the difficulties instead of falling apart. On a personal level, the 26-year-old hopes to score more goals this season.
“The learning is immense when you are far down in the table. What I prefer most is the full commitment of the team which always gives security. There are 25 guys who, instead of despairing, work harder every single day. I’ve scored seven league goals in recent years but, of course, I want to improve myself. The bigger the number the better. I hope all the goals will add points which is what counts in the table.”
It’s now been 10 years since Muniain made his first team debut and he admitted that the time has passed by quickly. The anniversary is special and he hopes that it will bring good luck this season so that he can celebrate success with his teammates.
“This is a very special season because it’s been 10 years since I made my debut. I’ve lived through everything and 10 is a round number. It’s a beautiful date. I hope it’s a great year and that I’m able to celebrate many great things with the team. I made my debut at San Mamés in a Europa League qualifying match and on the return I scored an important goal to advance. Everything happened very fast, it seems like yesterday. I’m still here with the maximum focus in the world.”
Even though he’s been in the team for a decade now, Muniain understands that he must continue to work hard to be a starter at San Mamés. He wants to play as much as possible, hopefully for another 10 years, but admits that he’s only focused on the short term at the moment.
“Now that I look at it, you see that everything happens very fast. It’s time to learn and have experiences. My goal is to prepare myself every day to start as much as possible and hopefully another 10 more years. I don’t like to look much further than the next day and focus on the short-term objectives. I think that’s best on a personal and collective level.”
Now that preseason is in fill swing Muniain explained that the team must prepare well. That is the foundation for having a good season. The team was exceptional under Gaizka Garitano last season and the 26-year-old says that the players have looked very committed to improving since preseason started last Thursday.
“We want a very complete preseason. That’s the basis of the year to be at the top. We are Athletic and we always have the ambition to compete and win. The first goal is good preparation. By Garitano’s hands we turned around the complicated situation that we were in. It’s a point in his favor that we know him and we know how the coach works. I’m seeing players that are very committed.”
In closing, Muniain reflected on what it means to be the captain now that Markel Susaeta has left the club. “Being the captain carries maximum responsibility”, he said with pride. “I’ve had great teammates who have been captains and I’ve learned a lot from them. I hope to represent the club at the highest level. I’ve prepared for it. When you have to carry that responsibility you have to do everything well.” The armband now belongs to Iker Muniain and he knows what it means to wear it and represent Athletic.