Iñigo Martinez “You Must Be Born A Defender”
Iñigo Martinez has quickly become one of the most important players at Athletic since joining the club back in January of 2018. The center-back adapted quickly and has formed a dynamic defensive partnership with Yeray. Defensive stability has been the backbone to the team’s success under Gaizka Garitano and Martinez recently spoke with Alberto García of Mundo Deportivo where explained that a player has to be born as a defender.
“I come from a town where football has always been big and I have an Athletic family. I’ve often been told that there are certain aspects in which I look like Goikoetxea. A defender has to be aggressive. We are in a position where we are going to the limit in each action. It’s true that each player either has it or not, you must be born a defender. It’s something that has given me a lot and I try to take advantage of it every moment of every game.”
The move to Athletic was a direct result of Aymeric Laporte choosing to leave for Manchester City but Martinez admitted that he didn’t feel any pressure. He’s always trusted himself to perform and is enjoying life at Athletic.
“I didn’t feel any pressure of replacing Laporte, not at all. It was actually the opposite. I have always been confident in myself and I’m trying to return the confidence that the club put in me. I was calm when I came to the team, although at that time things weren’t going well. I assumed the risk and now I think it’s a joy to step on the field at San Mamés and live with these teammates in the locker room.”
Martinez went on to reveal that he was fond of Athletic even as a Real Sociedad player. “I was always envious but I also liked to play against Athletic because of the way the team pressed, fought, and the sensations they transmitted”, he said. “I’m very proud to be a part of this family now. Since I arrived I have maintained a good level with some small ups and downs.”
The partnership with Yeray has become one of the best defensive duos in all of Europe and Martinez was quick to praise his teammate’s quality. Still just 24, Yeray can become even better according to Martinez.
“Yeray is very smart and has the ability to position himself very well. He anticipates and rarely has to react too moments. I was surprised by him. I knew him a little, but he surprised me. He’s still young and has a lot left to give. I think we’ve gotten along very well. In addition, he’s a magnificent person. It feels like we have been playing together for a long time and that’s very important in defense. We are in a nice moment.”
Unai Nuñez has been the odd man out in the Athletic defense, but Martinez believes that he’s proven himself every opportunity he’s been given. It won’t be long before he becomes a regular starter at San Mamés.
“Every time Unai has stepped on the field he’s demonstrated his quality. He’s even made his debut with the Spanish team which very few get to do. He’s young and we have three great center-backs with him, Yeray, and myself. For the moment, the Mister trusts Yeray and I. I have no doubt that Unai will have plenty of time to be an undisputed starter for many years.”
Looking to the future, Martinez sees Dani Vivian as another top defender coming up. “Above everything else, I would highlight Dani’s personality for being so young”, said Martinez when describing the 20-year-old. “It’s as if he’s just one more of us. He’s reached the first team and his pulse hasn’t trembled. He works with humility and he’s always willing to learn. He’s another great center-back that we have at the moment and I hope he’s able to make his debut as soon as possible.”
In closing, Martinez shared that the players have the utmost confidence in Gaizka Garitano. The Mister has been able the get the very best out of the team since taking over last December and defensive stability has been the key to success.
“Gaizka has that winning mentality that every coach must have and he has great confidence in us. He arrived at a bad time and managed to give us serious options to qualify for Europe. The squad has adapted very well and we totally trust him. He’s a great coach. We lacked that defensive security and now we have it so it’s hard to score goals against us. When we steal the ball we create a lot of chances.”
Athletic have yet to win a game away from home this season but will have a good chance to change that on Sunday. The Lions will be visiting Celta Vigo where they have won five of the last six trips to Balaídos. A victory could see the Basques jump several spots in the La Liga table but the team knows it won’t be an easy match in Galicia.