Beñat “I’m Just Thinking About Playing And Helping The Team”
Athletic have been preparing for Sunday’s Basque Derby against Alavés as the Lions look to continue their unbeaten run to start the season. The team will be playing three games in six days which means that Gaizka Garitano will have to rotate the squad for the first time this year. Last time these two faced off Beñat scored an incredible free kick goal and explained to Iñaki Ugalde of Mundo Deportivo that the support from the fans will make San Mamés a fortress.
“We are very strong at San Mamés and it’s very difficult for opponents to create chances because we are well organized. It’s the basis of our football. When the fans create a great atmosphere it’s like having 12 players on the field and our opponent’s notice it. The objective is to continue as we are. We are winning games at home, which is our fortress, and we have to improve on the road to get more points. The first goal is to go step by step, one game at a time. Last year we saw that we had to stop talking about Europe and just focus on the next game.”
La Liga has become extremely competitive over the past two years and Beñat was quick to point out that anyone can win a game if they are at their best. The midfielder believes that Alavés will give the Lions a big test because their style of play makes it difficult to score goals against them.
“The league is very tight. We see that matches are hard to win against anyone. Not even Madrid, Barcelona, or Atlético can win easily. If you are not one hundred percent anyone can beat you. Alavés is a very difficult opponent because they play very organized. It’s difficult to find space to be able to create opportunities. Their players are faithful to the style and Sunday is going to be a tight game.”
Beñat went on to discuss his current role in the team, sharing that he will continue working hard to have a place in the starting lineup. In the end, he trusts that Garitano is making the best decisions for the team and praised the Mister’s role in making Athletic one of the strongest club’s in La Liga.
“I’ve participated in all four games we’ve played so far, although I only started in one of them. I’m working hard to be in the starting lineup every game, like each of my teammates, but it depends on the coach. Gaizka’s merit is tremendous. He took the team in a very delicate situation and we took an incredible leap forward. Since then things started to come together and the team fought until the end.”
Interestingly, Beñat is in the final year of his contract with Athletic and his future at San Mamés isn’t certain. When asked whether or not he will continue at Athletic next season, Beñat shared that it’s his goal to sign a new contract but if that doesn’t happen he plans to keep playing football elsewhere.
“Right now I’m just thinking about playing, about helping the team. Then we will see what happens. What I do know is that I want to continue playing football. Hopefully it’s here and if not, it will be somewhere else. Football is like that, one day you are someone and tomorrow you are somewhere else. I always wanted to be a footballer since childhood and I have the good or bad luck to having to leave Lezama. I don’t regret it because I learned a lot and you mature much faster than being at home.”
Likewise, Mikel San José is also in the final year of his contract. The 30-year-old has barely featured this season but received immense praise from Beñat who referred to San José as the best midfield partner he’s ever had.
“Sanjo is one of the best I’ve every played with because he’s the one that I’ve played with the longest. I’ve also played with Dani, with Rico, with Itu, and others. I’ve found myself comfortable with everyone, but Mikel is the one I’ve shared the most time with. We understand each other very well.”
Looking to the future, Beñat sees a lot of young players who he believes will break into the first team. “I know Victor (San Bartolomé) from some training sessions”, Beñat began. “He has the quality to come into the team and Sancet is great. Larra is also very good and Villalibre scores many goals. Vivian is a defender who is a guarantee. They can all help the team.”
In closing, Beñat once again spoke about his friend Markel Susaeta who left the club over the summer. “Susaeta was a good teammate and is a great friend”, said Beñat. “It’s a pity that he’s not in the locker room, but football is like that. He’s having a new experience and I support him. We are in contact because we have been friends since childhood. I look forward to seeing him again soon.”
Although Unai López has seemingly overtaken Beñat in the starting lineup, there’s still a chance that Garitano could make a change against Alavés. The manager put Beñat in the team against Getafe to help with set pieces and may do the same against an Alavés side who are strong defensively. Either way, Beñat has still been an important player this season and will have plenty of chances throughout the year.