Unai López “I’m Eager To Earn My Place Here And Succeed At Athletic”
Unai López renewed his contract with Athletic last year, but the season didn’t go as he expected. The midfielder logged just 326 minutes in La Liga and was often left out of the squad completely. This summer he’s dedicated to earning a more prominent role in the team and told reporters on Thursday that he’s enjoying the preseason as the team prepared to open the campaign against Barcelona.
“It’s been hot here, but it’s fine. We are working hard and enjoying many training sessions. This is a time for us to get to our best so that we can start the league season strong, which is the goal. We are still preparing and the first objective is to be as ready as possible for the opening game against Barcelona. We all know that Barcelona is a very good club, but we will be playing at home with our fans who will give us great support. We will try to win.”
López admitted that barely playing last year wasn’t easy. This summer he’s working hard to show the manager that he deserves more consistent minutes and isn’t even thinking about leaving on loan.
“It’s true that last year wasn’t easy for me. When players don’t have minutes we aren’t happy, but I also learned many things. I’m facing this season with all the hope in the world, eager to earn my place here and succeed at Athletic. Leaving on loan again isn’t even going through my head. I think I can earn a place here and have minutes. The goal is to stay here, do well, and above all, help the team.”
Despite the lack of chances, López says that he always worked hard to be ready when he was called on. The 23-year-old was focused on the positives and hopes to play around 30 matches this season if possible.
“I trained last year in case the time came to help the team. Gaizka took the team during a very complicated situation and did a spectacular job. It was hard to have a role and I tried to do the best possible. I didn’t want to be in that situation last year, no player wants it. But when things happen in that way you have to take away the positives, although sometimes it is difficult. I would have liked to play 30-33 games. I’m working to make that happen this year.”
Because of the lack of opportunities, López had the chance to leave on loan in January but eventually decided to stay at Athletic. For the Lezama product, it was the right choice.
“Yes, there was a possibility of leaving during the winter and, of course, it interested me because it’s not easy to go without playing. By staying I learned a lot and if I had left there are many things that I wouldn’t have learned. I had conversations with teammates who helped me because it wasn’t an easy situation, but I tried to assimilate to certain things in different ways.”
Last year, López was used at times on the wing but explained that he’s stronger in his natural midfield position. Regardless, he’s happy to play anywhere that he’s put and was excited to change his number from 23 to 8 this summer.
“Everyone knows that I’m more comfortable in the midfield, but if I’m put out wide I’m willing to help the team and contribute everything I can. In the end, it’s the coach who decides. I work hard so that he can count on me. When the opportunity was given and they told me I could change my number, I did it. I’ve always liked 8 and I know that it’s been worn by very important players at Athletic. Above all, I made the decision because it’s a number that I’ve liked since I was little and I’m happy about the change.”
Unai López has had a very strong preseason and figures to be given an important role in the team this season. He’s worked extensively beside Dani García and was one of the stars in the 6-1 friendly win over Arenas last Saturday. With a dedication to hard work and improvement, López could break out at San Mamés this season.