Iñigo Martinez “There Won’t Be A Problem With Spain Playing At San Mamés”
Iñigo Martinez is playing his best football since joining Athletic and has quickly become a consistent presence in the Spanish National Team. While currently on international duty, the defender sat down for an interview with Eduardo Castelao of El Mundo where he explained that the mental aspect of football has played a big role in his recent success.
“It’s difficult to say, but this is one of the years in which I feel the best. I’ve been at a pretty good level I know, and I feel comfortable and confident. I’ve been more comfortable because of the experience and I have stability off the field as well. All of that goes to your head and the head is often the boss. In fact, the mental part of football is very important.”
Over the past few years there has been less excitement surrounding the National Team, which Martinez believes may be due to the fact that fans were used to the previous style of football played by La Roja. That being said, the defender is confident in the current group of players and says that everyone must adapt to the new generation.
“Well, I don’t think it’s because we aren’t looking forward to it, it’s just that it’s getting harder and harder to play because others are also trying to play. We have become accustomed to a Spain team that played beautifully and was the best in the world. Now I think we have to adapt to what we have. There are very good players here and I think that if we have full confidence we can have a good European Championship. Sure, some luck is needed. In football you always need luck.”
When asked about former Athletic teammate Kepa Arrizabalaga, Martinez stated that every player must consistently earn their place in the Spain squad. The manager can change things at any moment so each player must be at their best or could be left out entirely.
“Everyone comes here to contribute what they can. Sometimes you play and sometimes you don’t. We all get along and we all assume that we could play today and not tomorrow. Kepa is very calm. He knows the potential he has and he makes us all better. I think we all know that at any time the coach can change and leave you out. You have to do things right, show the coach your best, and take advantage of the opportunities.”
Several Athletic fans have voiced their displeasure with Spain playing matches at San Mamés, but Martinez doesn’t believe there is a serious issue. In the end, the 28-year-old is confident that fans will come to support the team at the Cathedral and is excited about playing in Bilbao with the National Team during EURO 2020.
“There’s a lot of controversy, but I don’t think there is any issues really. Football is football. We all love it and there may be four that disagree, but everyone else supports it. In that sense, there won’t be a problem with Spain playing there. It will be like other stadiums because there will be some from there and also some from outside. Everyone will go to support the team and enjoy the game. Bilbao is a very beautiful city, with healthy and passionate fans. Talking about and focusing on the controversy doesn’t lead anywhere. That’s what I think.”
Martinez came under fire last year when he was left out of the Spain squad due to injury, only to play days later with the Basque National Team. It was quickly revealed to be an error from the Spain doctors and the defender isn’t worried about the issue moving forward, but acknowledged that many people made assumptions without having the facts.
“When it’s not your fault it’s not your mistake, so I was calm because I knew the truth. The doctors admitted that it was their fault. It annoyed me because I wasn’t able to come here and we all want to do that. I think it got out of hand. There were comments, opinions, and many of them without knowing what happened. That does a lot of damage in football.”
Based on recent months it appears as though Martinez will be in the squad for EURO 2020, but he isn’t taking anything for example. “It’s very difficult to say that,” he responded when asked if he expects to be in the team. “The coach is giving me opportunities which means he trusts me and my game, so I’m trying to give everything I have. If I get to go, great, and if not I will be supporting the team from home.”
While Iñigo Martinez is expected to be in the EURO 2020 squad, he may not be the only player from Athletic. Teammates Yeray, Ander Capa, Yuri Berchiche, Iker Muniain, and Iñaki Williams have all played well this season and could still earn a place in the squad. Either way, the most important thing at this point is playing well at the club level and helping Athletic qualify for Europe which would go a long way in helping the players make their case for the Selection.