Iñigo Martinez “The Goal Should Be To Qualify For Europe”
Iñigo Martinez made his return to the Spain National Team on Saturday, coming on a late substitute in the team’s 1-1 draw against Norway. The Athletic defender missed out on the previous call due to an injury but is excited to be back with the Selection. Martinez recently spoke with Manel Bruña of Mundo Deportivo where he explained that competing in EURO 2020 would be a great opportunity.
“There are many changes from the previous list. I think Robert Moreno is giving options to those who are doing well. Last time I wasn’t here because I didn’t start the year well and had injuries, but I’m back. I’m doing well now and I’m enjoying being here with these players. Competing in the European Champions is something that very few get to do and it would be something great in my career.”
With Martinez unavailable, Unai Núñez was called up during the last international break and made his Spain debut. Martinez believes it’s only a matter of time before his teammate is back with the Selection and getting more minutes at Athletic.
“That’s a good question. Unai isn’t having many minutes because Yeray has been given more, but he’s a young player who has a big future ahead of him in the world of football. I have no doubt that he will have minutes and it won’t take long for him to come back to the National Team.”
Over the past two years Iker Muniain and Iñaki Williams have also spent time with the Spain National Team, though it’s been difficult for the pair to return. Martinez shared that it’s difficult for multiple Athletic to be called up with so many talented players coming from other clubs.
“It’s very difficult for more than one of us to be summoned together. Being called up to a team like Spain is hard because there are a lot of great players in every position, especially for Muniain who is at a great level himself. To get here you must first do well for your club, but I have no doubt that Iker, Iñaki, and others will have another chance.”
Turning the attention to Athletic, Martinez explained that the team is in a bit of a slump. Despite the recent poor results, the defender is confident that the Lions will turn things around quickly.
“We’ve hit a pothole. We hope to get out of this situation soon because if don’t recover fast it become even more difficult to get things right. We know that there is potential, that our style is very different from the rest. We all defend together and from there we can attack. It gave us good results at the beginning and I’m sure we’ll get out of this situation.”
When asked about Athletic’s goals for the season, Martinez was quick to point out that the most important thing right now is to put an end to the losing streak. Looking ahead, the Basques believe that they can qualify for Europe and it’s the defender’s personal goal to play as many games as he can and help the team.
“The goal right now is to get out of the pothole, that’s the most important thing. At the end of the season you will see where we deserve to be, but always keeping in mind that we are Athletic and the goal should be to qualify for Europe. I have the same personal goal as every year. The first thing is to avoid injuries and, from there, to contribute all that I have and try to play as many matches as possible and achieve our team goals like fighting to qualify for Europe.”
The Copa del Rey will be starting soon and the new format this year will see all draws moved from two legs to a single match until the semifinals. Martinez thinks that it will give clubs more of a chance to reach the finals and makes the tournament more fair.
“Now anyone can advance and it should be a single match until the final, but that’s not what they decided to do. There are more options now, more surprises, and I think it makes football more fair because it’s very difficult to beat teams like Madrid, Barcelona, or Atlético. It’s very complicated over two games and now, with just one game, it’s much more possible for everyone.”
In closing, Martinez was asked about the criticism directed at Gaizka Garitano over the past few weeks. “Opinions will always be good or bad”, the defender responded. “The important thing is that we are all united which is what will make us finish high in the table at the end of the season. That must be the objective, not to lose confidence, to be united, and have ultimate confidence in Gaizka.” Athletic will have the chance to get things back on track next weekend when Rea Valladolid visit San Mamés.