Iñigo Martinez “Yeray And I Understand Each Other Perfectly”
Iñigo Martinez has been a polarizing player since making the jump from Real Sociedad to Athletic Club, but he knew what the move would bring. Accepting an offer from a rival club will always be met with anger and none of the backlash was surprising. On the other hand, Martinez readily admitted in an interview with Robert Basic of El Correo that he never expected to make it to this level of football when he was a younger player.
“I was never a player who stood out at the lower levels. I’ve always gone step by step. I never believed that I would make it this far. My focus has always been going to training, which is what I liked. Then I made a good jump with Sanse and from there I made my debut in the Primera. When I made the move from Real to Athletic I knew the consequences. I had enough of it and it’s true that my family had it worse than me. I know how all of this works. Obviously, I don’t like it, me or anyone else.”
Football has changed a lot over the past few years. Many clubs are starting to find immense success with a more defensive style of football and that has certainly been the case for Athletic. When asked if Gaizka Garitano’s style is boring, Martinez was quick to defend it and explained that the manager is getting the very best out of the players.
“There are different styles of football and we all would love to make 50 passes to score a goal, but sometimes that’s not the right fit. Everything must be done meaningfully, knowing what situation you are in and what minute it is in the game. It seems absurd to criticize the style of one team or another. Look at Getafe last year. People said they didn’t play good football, but look where they ended up. Some have said Athletic is boring. No way! That’s not the word. We have our own style, our own way of playing. It all depends on the players you have. I think this way of playing is going to give us a lot because it fits our strengths.”
There’s no denying that Garitano’s style of football has seen Athletic become one of the best teams in La Liga. The Lions have picked up 7 out of a possible 9 points to start the campaign, though Martinez believes it’s way too early to be talking about possibly qualifying for Europe at this point.
“We’ve started the league in the best possible way. We won two games against very strong rivals and drew at a field where few will even score a goal. We must continue like this and be competitive. We know what we have to do. We are more confident because these are important points and it makes things easier for us. It’s not the time to talk about Europe or the Champions League because the season has just begun. The year will tell you where we deserve to be.”
Martinez and Yeray have formed one of Europe’s best center-back pairings with Unai Núñez also able to fit in well. It wasn’t hard for the defenders to find a rhythm playing together according to Martinez who shared that he and Yeray have a great feel for playing together.
“When I arrived it wasn’t difficult for me to adapt. I’ve always had a good relationship with Yeray and also with Unai Núñez. I’ve played more with Yeray and we understand each other well. We understand each other perfectly. Having a good defense helps you create more danger in attack.”
Since joining Athletic, Martinez has been a regular in the Spain squad but wasn’t surprised to be left out of the latest call due to an injury. Instead, Unai Núñez was included in the team and made his official debut in Sunday’s 4-0 win over The Faroe Islands.
“I didn’t expect to be in the Spain squad because I haven’t played for a while. I thought it would be very complicated. I hope to return. Every player has to do everything possible to be called and we all like to go. Let’s see if I’m in the next one. Every time Unai has played internationally he’s done well. We all know that he’s a good player, a great defender. Every time he’s taken the field he’s done marvelously well, not only here but with the U21 team.”
It was interesting to see Núñez get called up over both Martinez and Yeray despite being the third center-back at Athletic. However, Martinez explained that each coach has his own preferences and every player at Athletic is working hard to earn minutes.
“Each coach thinks his own way. Some like one player more and the other less. Unai has done things well and has shown that he can play. The coach has to make the decision. Everyone here is fighting for their minutes. That’s our job and we try to give one hundred percent to play.”
Yeray and Iñigo Martinez will be expected to start together once again on Friday as Athletic travel to newly-promoted Mallorca. A win would see the Lions move to 10 points on the season and keep pace in the battle for the top spots in the La Liga table.