Iker Muniain “Athletic Is A Religion”
Iker Muniain is a living legend at Athletic which is amazing when considering the fact that he’s still just 26-years-old. The winger made his first debut as a 16-year-old and has gone on to feature in nearly 400 matches while also becoming the team captain. Muniain’s decision to sign a renewal last year without including a release clause sent waves through the football world and he’s explained the reasoning behind the contract in an interview with El Club del Deportista.
“It was the best way to ensure what is healthy and avoid temptations. When important players leave, the fans here are hurt and it’s felt in the team. You touch something special and the fans hurt when you go to another team. We decided, the club and I, to make this decision to renew without a clause so that the fans would be comforted and identify with what I fell, which is the love I have for this club.”
While Muniain is committed to Athletic for his entire career, he’s seen others leave the club in dramatic fashion. “We’ve seen it and I have lived it in the first person”, he admitted. “Those were very difficult decisions for them to make and when they did it they had to say goodbye to the team and the fans. I’ve seen delicate moments because it’s not easy to leave here and decide to take another path.”
When asked if he has ever considered leaving Athletic, Muniain shared that there have been difficult moments but that the though of moving to another club never once entered his mind.
“Honestly, no. It’s one of those things I’ve always had very clear. It’s true that players go through complicated moments when there is no confidence and things aren’t going well so you stop and rethink your situation. But I have always made it clear that I always wanted to be here and stay here.”
Looking back on his career, Muniain shared what it was like to make his first team debut as a teenager. He didn’t even expect to be called up for the Europa League match and will never forget that moment.
“I had been training in the preseason with the first team. I was 16 years old and it was a Europa League qualifying match. At that time the coach, who was Joaquín Caparrós, hung a list of the squad the day before the game and that’s when I found out I was going with the first team. It was a huge surprise that he trusted me so soon. The first thing I did was call my family, they didn’t expect it either. It was a real joy. The thing I remember most was the ovation of San Mamés.”
A decade of football is a lifetime for most players. Muniain has been through almost everything with Athletic and is proud of his career to this point. “I have lived very nice experiences and others that aren’t so good, but I’m proud of all of these moments and these 10 years have helped me to value and enjoy all of this day by day.” Still a young player, Muniain is looking ahead to what comes next.
The past few years haven’t been easy for Athletic. Managerial changes have seen the club fail to qualify for Europe but better things are on the horizon. “Since last season we have managed to straighten the situation a bit and do things right again with Gaizka Garitano”, Muniain said encouragingly. “We’ve had consistency and that’s shown in the results. We are ambitious and we want to finish as high in the table as possible, which is what a club like Athletic deserves.”
In closing, Muniain was asked a serious of questions during which he had to answer quickly. The captain revealed that his childhood idol was Ronaldinho, his best season was the first one under Marcelo Bielsa, and that the Europa League final lost in Bucharest is still the most disappointing moment of his career. When asked if he would change the club’s policy to sign foreign players, Muniain simply answered “I wouldn’t” and defined Athletic with one word: Religion.