Gaizka Larrazabal “Everyone Has To Write Their Own Story Here”
Gaizka Larrazabal is living the same childhood dream as his father, Aitor Larrazabal. The 21-year-old was recently promoted to the first team and will soon make his debut for the Basque giants. While most players who have famous parents tend to face intense pressure, that isn’t the case for Gaizka. In a recent interview with El Correo’s Robert Basic, the winger explained that he’s inspired by his father’s legendary career.
“The fact that my father was with Athletic for so long personally inspires me. I have those possible genes that he could have given me for this wonderful sport of football. His last name isn’t a weight on me at all. It’s something beautiful and exciting. Yes, I wear Larra on the back of my shirt but that has nothing to do with differentiating myself. Everyone has called me that since I was little and that’s how I want to be known.”
The young winger remembers when his father was still playing, with a specific game still etched into his memory. As a child, Gaizka was an Athletic fan like everyone else but didn’t really understand the magnitude of his father’s career until he was a bit older.
“Of course, I remember watching my father play. The match I remember the best, although I don’t remember the year, is the one that he played against Atlético Madrid at the old San Mamés. It was during the time of Fernando Torres. At first, I wasn’t aware of what it meant that my father played for Athletic. I grew up as an Athletic fan like everyone else but didn’t realize what I had at home. The kids always learned the names of the players, they knew them well, and a year came when they knew who I was on the first day of class because they had seen me on TV with him.”
The fact that Gaizka is an attacker instead of a defender like his father has certainly helped mitigate the comparisons. That being said, he still believes that he has many of the same genes that made his father such a successful footballer.
“We are opposite players, I’ve always said that. Of course, we are both of the same breed. I have his cold blood and genius when I have to have it. He was a defender and I like to be more creative. I don’t set limits on myself, because you shouldn’t do that in this sport. I know what I’m capable of. I handled it all right. I was a kid and when I went to class people didn’t bother me either. They made a comment here or there, but that’s it. My father also trained me at Lauro and that was different. I didn’t know whether to call him Mr. Aitor or Aita. We got along well.”
Larrazbal went on to admit that he didn’t really take football seriously as a kid until he left Lauro where his father coached him. He began to see that he could have a career as a footballer and the support and advice of his father helped Gaizka achieve that dream, though he never imagined he would make it to Athletic.
“I didn’t start taking football seriously until I left Lauro. I told him that I thought I had the level for something more and he told me to be calm. He told me to train, to have a good time, and if I showed good things then more would come. At no time did I think I was going to reach this level, but I knew I could improve in football. I went to Mallona, to Danok, and I grew there. I thought I could do this and then he started giving me advice and supporting me more.”
Aitor Larrazabal’s career was incredible, but Gaizka has no plans to live in that shadow. He wants to have his own career at San Mamés and for fans to remember him for what he did and not who his father was.
“Everyone has to write their own story here. Both Kenan’s father and mine have their history and I have to write my own. I want to be remembered for what I did and not for being the son of Aitor. I have to be the same person, wherever I am. When you get here a lot of people talk to you, they want to get close to you, but I have kept my feet on the ground. It’s important to surround yourself with people who are close to you, trustworthy people, which is what I’ve done. I’ve grown a lot in football, but personally I believe that I’m the same.”
Looking at his own style of football, Gaizka explained that he likes to create in attack. He has spent years watching Aritz Aduriz and Markel Susaeta, though he also enjoys the football of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
“I like to be free and creative. I like to take the ball and invent, but I also love helping the team as much as possible. At Athletic, Aduriz has always been an icon and someone to admire. Markel Susaeta is the same, he’s been a reference at this club. Outside of Athletic I have followed great players like Cristiano Ronaldo, whose ambition and daily work is something we should all look at, as well as Messi’s talent.”
This summer was a challenging time for Larrazabal. After being promoted he began to train with many players who he had watched for years on television. After getting to know them better, he explained that it became less intimidating and that he’s been able to learn a lot from his teammates.
“It can be intimidating being with the first team. There are players you know and others you don’t. For example, when you watch Raúl García on TV, he’s very imposing. He is highly respected like Aduriz. Then you talk to them and you see that they are normal, very good people who help you every day and give you advice. At first, yes, it was intimidating but now I just say that it’s a joy to share a locker room with them.”
There was concern that Larrazabal could leave Athletic over the summer. The 21-year-old was on an expiring contract and his great performances with Bilbao Athletic had attracted interest from several clubs. However, once Athletic made an offer Larrazabal quickly accepted because he didn’t want to play anywhere else.
“At the end of last season I considered that I was having a year and my contract was ending. I didn’t think much about it either, but I had to think about what would happen to me. There were several clubs that were interested in me. I wanted to stay here, but the offers came later than expected. In the end, I was lucky to sign with this wonderful club, which is where I want to be.”
Gaizka Larrazabal was on the bench for last Friday’s 1-0 win over Barcelona but is still waiting to make his debut. The young winger has shown the potential to become a very important player for the first team and will be given chances this season. Larrazabal’s future his bright because he’s writing his own story at San Mamés, which is just the way he wants it to be.