Yeray “I’ve Dreamed Of Playing For Athletic All My Life”
Yeray committed his future to Athletic on Thursday by signing a new contract that will run through 2026 and contains a €70 million release clause. Later in the day, the defender addressed the media alongside Sporting Director Rafa Alkorta and President Elizegi. The 24-year-old expressed his joy in having extended his deal with his boyhood club and knows the responsibility that comes with the renewal.
“I am very proud of this renewal and very happy to continue so many years at this club. I’ve dreamed of playing for Athletic all my life, since I was a child and still today. I’m proud to be here. It was a process, like everything else, and took some time but all parties wanted to get it done. Being the player with the longest contract doesn’t mean anything special. I have a contract through 2026 but I’m also aware of the responsibility that brings. Now I have to show it on the field because the club has trusted me so much.”
It’s been three years since Yeray debuted with the first team back in 2016. Looking back on that time, he admitted that he’s been through a lot of good and bad. This season the defender hopes to help Athletic compete for Europe and add another fantastic memory to his career.
“There have been many ups and downs during these three years. You know what I have been through. My best year was the second one. It’s the one I learned the most not just in football, but also personally. There have been many great memories. I’ll always remember my debut, the teammates I have and those I have had, and the great way we have faced the things that have happened to me and the team. This year we will work to qualify for Europe and have another great memory.”
Last season didn’t go as planned with Athletic battling relegation by December. However, Yeray says that the team is training well and are determined to compete for a top spot in the table. The most important thing is being prepared for the opening match against Barcelona on 16 August at San Mamés.
“The preseason is going very well. There have been no major injuries and we are slowly picking up pace. We really want to play a game again and prepare as best as possible for the first match against Barcelona. Last year we didn’t want to go down. Every season you want to start off right and be high up the table. The beginning is going to be complicated this year but we have plenty of matches to get to those top spots. I don’t see anything that would prevent us from finishing high because we have quality to spare and a lot of desire.”
During the press conference, Rafa Alkorta called Yeray “one of the top three center-backs in La Liga”. When asked about the legendary defender’s compliments, Yeray shared how the position has changed. “Today center-backs are asked to play the ball out more and never get beaten in the air”, he began. “My style is different and I’ve been successful with it since I was little. You have to anticipate the play and be alert to stay in control. I’m that kind of defender and I’m comfortable in my position. I haven’t scored yet with Athletic, but the goals will come.”
In closing, reporters asked Yeray about the rumors which claimed that Atlético Madrid had offered to pay his previous €30 million release clause. “Nothing happened and I wasn’t told about anything”, answered the Lezama product. “There are a thousand rumors in football. I wanted to continue here where I am supported and happy.” Yeray has established himself as one of the leaders in the team and a top defender in La Liga which means expectations will be high this season.