Joseba Etxeberria Pleased With Bilbao Athletic’s Sensational Start To The Season
Bilbao Athletic have had an exciting start to the season under new manager Joseba Etxeberria. The Kumeak sit alone at the top of the table having picked up 16 points from the opening 7 matches with several players performing at a very high level. There’s real belief that this team will be able to challenge for promotion this year but the Mister understands that isn’t the most important goal.
“The sporting goals are complementary because the most important thing is to get the players ready for the first team”, Etxeberria told AthleticTV in an interview on Thursday. “We are happy with the daily dynamics regardless of the results. The players have accepted the requirements we put on them and know that they are the future of the first team, which is the basis of everything we do. So, yes, we are happy.”
The ultimate goal of Bilbao Athletic is preparing player to take the next step. There are always other objectives that the team would like to accomplish, such as promotion, but those are never placed above player development.
“The objective of Lezama is to get players to the first team, especially at Bilbao Athletic. It’s the most important thing here. We have a clear understanding of the other parallel objectives of the team such as qualifying or the playoffs, but the most important thing is without a doubt getting the players ready for the first team.”
Etxeberria perfectly understood the expectations when accepting the offer to manage Bilbao Athletic. The club legend explained that he was excited to work with young players and also hopes to teach them the importance of being committed to Athletic above all else.
“My main objective when taking the position was the the players would be as complete and competitive as possible because that’s what the top level demands. On the other hand, I also want to try to help them enjoy football and enjoy the formation process at Athletic. In the end, we want to keep those players loyal so that they feel very committed, so that they feel part of a family and just just football players. From there, some players will be ready to settle into the first team and, obviously, others won’t. That will be the majority, but having an emotional bond is also without a doubt one of our greatest goals.”
The majority of the first team squad has always come from Lezama and that won’t be changing. Etxeberria says that the most important part of his job to get the next group of players ready to take the field at San Mamés.
“Lezama is our youth system. Most of the players in the first team were trained at Lezama and we are working on others right now because we know it’s a long and hard process. The players we have at Bilbao Athletic are facing the last step and our goal is to help them in this stage so that they might be in the first team in the future.”
Athletic’s unique player policy is certainly a limitation. While other clubs can sign any players they want, the Basques have a much smaller pool of players to choose from. Because of this, Etxeberria believes that real football is taking place at Athletic and Lezama.
“Lezama must be the main core and base of every Athletic squad, including the first team. We have a handicap because other teams are incorporating more players from outside which means that there is more and more competition, but I have always said that as the game becomes more globalized the most authentic football will be at Athletic. Lezama is a big reason for that.”
Lezama has been producing top level footballers for decades and Etxeberria would go on to highlight nutrition as a key component to player development. The Athletic academy puts a heavy emphasis on teaching players early on about the importance of what they put in their body and getting sufficient rest.
“We know that food is a very important part of an athlete’s performance. Lezama is a high performance center where we want players to be as competitive as possible and we understand that food is another tool that we give them in the dining room for breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner. Eating well is also part of training. Eating, rest, and hydration are vital. It’s good that players realize all of this at an early age.”
As a club legend, returning to Athletic has been special for Etxeberria. “It’s always a pleasure to return home”, he shared. “I already knew all of the players despite this being a practically new team. We had a good preseason so I understood that we were on the right track and hopefully it will be like this for a long time.” Bilbao Athletic have been sensational to start the season. Several players are showing the potential to one day join the first team and the Kumeak will be expected to challenge for promotion this season.