What Losing The Starting Goalkeeper Role Means For Iago Herrerín’s Future At Athletic Club
Iago Herrerín’s career at Athletic hasn’t been easy. For nearly a decade the goalkeeper has sat behind Gorka Iraizoz and Kepa Arrizabalaga and even left on loan for Leganés back in 2016. Last summer the goalkeeper publicly stated on several occasions that he didn’t want to continue as a backup. There were reports that suggested he wanted to return to Leganés but all that quickly changed.
Before the season began, Kepa Arrizabalaga accepted an offer from Chelsea and left the club. Following the departure Herrerín was now the top choice to start in goal. After years of waiting the dream was finally coming true. That was until Herrerín suffered a muscle injury during the preseason and Unai Simón was thrust into the lineup on the opening game of the season.
Simón played very well, so well that many fans were upset when Herrerín was immediately put into the lineup after being cleared to play. Then-manager Eduardo Berizzo had already told Herrerín that he would be the starter once healthy and Gaizka Garitano didn’t make a change in goal after taking over in December. Herrerín’s time had finally arrived, though it wasn’t glamorous.
Although he played well for the most part, Herrerín made several isolated mistakes that cost Athletic important points during a season where relegation was a real concern at one point. Herrerín wasn’t the only player who made errors at times, but his reckless style of playing the position didn’t sit well with fans who had already seen enough of Simón to demand that he be put back into the lineup.
As the season progressed, Herrerín was routinely asked in interviews about the criticism he received from fans. The 31-year-old admitted that he had to take a break from social media for a while and that he understood that fans will also prefer some players to others. The treatment from some fans was certainly uncalled for though Herrerín stood by his style of goalkeeping and was proud to finally be starting.
Going into this summer it was clear that there would be a true battle between Herrerín and Simón for the starting goalkeeper role. While Simón lost that same role with the Spain U21 team during the European Championship, Herrerín was working at Lezama with the rest of the Athletic team. Simón would eventually join the group as the team left for Germany in late July and each passing week saw the starlet pull further ahead.
The writing was on the wall for Herrerín during August’s friendly against Roma in Italy. Garitano was said to be testing out what would be his starting lineup for the league opener and Simón was in the team. It was confirmed when Simón was included in the lineup for the season opener against Barcelona and the 22-year-old has played at a high level in the three games so far this season.
So, what’s next for Iago Herrerín?
Losing the starting role and functioning as the backup and Cup goalkeeper isn’t what Herrerín wants at this point in his career. The 31-year-old has already been outspoken about it though he’s yet to speak to the media since the season began and Simón was put into the lineup. With one year left on his contract, Herrerín’s time at San Mamés could be coming to an end.
As always, Herrerín will be eager to prove himself. He has spent his entire career trying to show that he has the level to succeed at Athletic and takes pride in silencing his critics. Garitano’s decision will surely light a fire under Herrerín that should produce fantastic performances this year whenever he does see the field. The problem is that it may not be enough to overtake Simón again.
Anything can happen in football and situations can change in an instant. An injury could occur or a dip in form which could see Herrerín retake the starting role. However, there’s a very good chance that neither of those things happen and that Herrerín will spend the season as the backup once again. If that’s the case, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him want to leave the club next summer or, at least, choose not to renew his contract.
There’s no denying that Herrerín is upset at having lost the starting role after holding it for just one year. Simón is the present and future and several other promising young goalkeepers are making their way through the ranks at Lezama. There will be plenty of time over the coming months for Iago Herrerín to address the situation in interviews but it certainly looks as though there’s a good chance that he will leave Athletic once his contract expires or, perhaps, even sooner.