Yuri Berchiche “Life At Athletic Is Different Than Any Other Club”
Over the summer Yuri Berchiche shared that he would demand much better performances from himself in his second year with Athletic. So far the 29-year-old has delivered as he’s arguably been the best left-back in La Liga throughout the opening three matches. Berchiche recently sat down with Javier Beltrán of AS for an interview during the international break where he explained that he’s loving life in Bilbao.
“Right now I’m feeling very well physically and I’m at a good level. It’s true that it will be difficult to reach the level that I was at in my last year with Real Sociedad because that was the best year of my career without a doubt because of the confidence I had and how I felt physically. Now those same pieces are coming together and I’m playing very well. The difference between Paris and Athletic is huge. I’m very comfortable in Bilbao and so is my family. The year in Paris was very beautiful, both Paris and Bilbao are excellent cities.”
Athletic’s strong start to the season has fans very excited and Berchiche isn’t one to temper expectations. The defender admitted that the team has to stay humble and take the campaign one game at a time, but there’s no denying the Lions have been great throughout their first three matches.
“No, we should keep the excitement because it gives confidence. You have to have your feet on the ground knowing that it will be very difficult to be high up the table all season, but the fans already know that we are going to try and that we are very confident right now. We play with a high pressure to recover the ball as quickly as possible and attack immediately. There are things we have to improve, such as having better sequences of passes after winning back the ball to force our opponent to run more. If we do things well we will be very hard to beat.”
Berchiche isn’t the only Athletic defender playing at a high level. The entire backline has been solid including Ander Capa who leads La Liga with three assists. When asked about the high level from the defense, Berchiche praised the entire group and said that he’s only focused on being successful with Athletic and not being called up to the National Team.
“In general we have a great defense. Proof of this is the fact that Unai Nuñez is with the Spanish Selection. It’s been made clear that Athletic is now very strong defensively. It would be difficult for me to be called to the Selection. The closest I’ve ever been was my last year with Real. That year I had some hope, but honestly it’s never been in my head. I think it’s a reward you get for your performances and it’s welcome when it comes, but now I’m more focused on my team where I’m happy.”
When Berchiche was signed from PSG last season he became Athletic’s second-highest transfer in club history at €25 million. Despite the fee, Berchiche doesn’t feel any pressure at Athletic, on the contrary he’s full of pride to play at San Mamés.
“Being signed for such a high fee doesn’t add pressure. Not at all. There was pressure playing for PSG in front of 90,000 people at the Bernabéu in the Championship League. My nerves are completely gone. You have to perform well every day at PSG and if you don’t you will lose your place. That doesn’t mean it’s not the same here. I’m a player who demands a lot from myself and this year I demand more than last season. Life at Athletic is different than any other club. Playing at San Mamés is unique. It’s a true honor to play for this club.”
Throughout his career, Berchiche has had several moments where his temper led to bookings and even red cards. The defender explained that he doesn’t like being called aggressive. He admitted that he’s a passionate player, but doesn’t think he’s ever crossed the line.
“I am myself and as long as I play football I will remain the same. What makes me angry is when people call me aggressive when in fact I’ve never been given a card at any time for aggression. It’s true that that my temperament has hurt me at times and last year I had a mishap with a referee against Atlético. I have character, but I never pass the red line.”
Gaizka Garitano has been able to get the very best out of Berchiche, Capa, and Dani García. The trio were important players in the Eibar team that Garitano led to the Primera and they all understand each other well. “We are lucky to be with Gaizka because he knows us all perfectly”, shared Berchiche. “It’s an advantage that we have. We all reached the Primera together with Eibar.” Garitano has Athletic playing at a very high level and Yuri Berchiche has been a big factor in the team’s success so far this season.