Yuri Berchiche “We Need To Believe That We Can Do More”
Yuri Berchiche’s path to the Primera wasn’t easy. The defender left Lezama for England as a teenager and played with several lower level clubs before finally breaking out with Eibar. Now that he has returned to his boyhood Athletic Club, Berchiche is very happy and believes that he has plenty of football left to play.
“When I left Athletic I was young and made an incorrect decision,” Berchiche told Jose Artetxe in an interview with DEIA. “I went to England those years weren’t positive at all. That’s life though. I have turned it around and I’m still 29 years old. I have many more years of football left. I’m very happy here but when my contract ends I might like to try another league, maybe in the United States. My wife really liked the experience in Paris.”
The left-back went on to say that it was important to return to Athletic and that his heart led him home. Making it to the Primera was extremely difficult, but Berchiche is proud of the way he worked to reach the highest level.
“I’m delighted here. I came because I thought it was what I had to do. I listened to my heart. I left with a thorn in my side and I’m convinced that I made the right decision and have succeeded. I’ll tell you the most critical moment in my career was signing for Valladolid. I saw that the Primera was far away and that the jump was going to be very complicated. From there I went to Real Unión, which was a good club, but I aspired to be higher and had two bad years.”
Berchiche admitted that he almost walked away from football, but refused to quit the game he loves. The move to Eibar proved to be a turning point in his career.
“I almost quit football. Once I went to Eibar everything changed for the better. I haven’t had a career like most players here, who have always been at the club. To earn my salary I had to move around a lot and often thought about throwing in the towel, but I wanted to continue because I didn’t have studies either. I was lucky to arrive at Eibar in a timely manner and since then everything has gone well.”
Over the past few days several Athletic players have come out in defense of Iñigo Córdoba who was subject to whistles in last week’s win over Espanyol. Berchiche was quite vocal about his support of his teammate and made it clear that everyone in the squad feels the same way.
“I would do it again. I would do it for each of the players in this locker room. We all think of the team and not just ourselves. It doesn’t happen this way at other clubs and players lose their way. I love Córdoba for everything he gives on the field. He will have better and worse days, but people should see everything he gives us. Situations like the one he had can really influence a player.”
Berchiche knows firsthand what it’s like to be whistled during a game. He faced the same thing while playing for Real Sociedad and firmly stated that Athletic fans shouldn’t do it to their own players.
“I don’t know if everyone has been there, but I was also whistled in the first two years at Anoeta. I can understand that it happens because they think you can be better, but that’s not the way to do it. It was unpleasant and I hope it doesn’t happen again. The fans pay their entrance, as they say, they have the right but this is Athletic and we are different so…”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s match against Levante, Berchiche says Athletic must take all three points to justify the previous draw with Villarreal. The Lions would be in a much better place going into the international break with another big win and 20 points.
“On Sunday we must make the point against Villarreal good, it’s that simple. If we don’t win against Levante, that draw will look differently. We have to go out to win, the same way we did against Espanyol, with a high pace because winning will give us two quiet weeks during the break.”
The left-back recently made his return from a dislocated shoulder and played one of his best games of the season against Villarreal. Now that he’s gaining confidence, Berchiche hopes to continue improving and promises that the best is yet to come.
“I did well against Villarreal, with more confidence after the shoulder injury. I think I played a good game, like the whole team, especially the goalkeeper. I finished with good feelings. An injury is always a step back and you need to recover pace and rhythm to compete well. I want to keep the level I was giving last year. I ended the season with good feelings and I’m trying to improve every day. I am still far from my best performance.”
Those who have watched Berchiche are well aware that he plays every game with passion and aggression. The 29-year-old says that he’s learned how to better handle his emotions and highlighted Raúl García as a player who has a very similar mentality when on the field.
“A good example would be Raúl García. On the field he is very aggressive. He doesn’t stop talking to everyone and then off the field he’s very different, very soft-spoken. In my case there are people who may not like how I am. When I don’t like something I show it, but sometimes I’m quite calm. Playing brings that aggression out of me, although with age I’ve learned to control that impulse that used to make me play bad passes. I control my temper better now. Football is like like, it teaches you.”
In closing, Berchiche was asked about Athletic’s defensive style of football which some have deemed boring. “With a more offensive mentality we would surely have more points and maybe we would see ourselves higher in the table,” he acknowledged. “We need to believe that we can do more, especially with the ball. Our defense is a guarantee but there is also quality in attack.”
Athletic have been one of the best defensive teams in all of Europe since Gaizka Garitano took over as manager, but continue to struggle in front of goal. If the Basques can find a way to create more chances and finish opportunities, they will be one of the favorites to challenge for European qualification. As always, the team will take the season one game at a time and Sunday’s match against Levante is the only priority right now.