Raúl García “I Want To Win, We Play To Win”
Raúl García appeared to have suffered a groin injury in last weekend’s win over Osasuna and was forced to leave the game at halftime. Thankfully, tests showed that there was no muscle damage and the 33-year-old was slowly reincorporated into training through the weekend. García has since been cleared for Sunday’s match against Granada and is happy to have avoided a potentially serious injury.
“On Monday we had tests and there was nothing,” García told Robert Basic in an interview with El Correo. “It was good news so I’m calm. I hope that the pain will reduce and allow me to play this weekend. When it happened it wasn’t a pain that worried me. It simply prevented me from doing things normally. I thought it was best to not compete and that another teammates could do better.”
García scored against Osasuna last weekend, which was called back, but chose not to celebrate against his former club. When asked about the situation, the midfielder made it clear that he wants to win games but can do so while also being professional.
“You don’t have to fool yourself. I’m glad to score goals and to win. I want to win, it’s my thing, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t show respect. I’m still grateful to Osasuna for everything even though I’m on the opposite team now. It’s hard to be happy when you don’t win. We are competitive people and we play to win. When I lose a match I don’t want to be told anything because I don’t feel like it. I’m not one who looks for recognition, but when it comes it shows that you are doing something right.”
Although García plans to continue playing football for several more years, he’s already had an incredible career. The Osasuna product shared that his family played a big role in his becoming a professional football and that he wouldn’t have made it this far without their support from a young age.
“My family always supported me. They knew their son. I didn’t like to go out because what I wanted was to play. They always told me that I had to study, but they are very happy that I’ve made this a career. They worked very hard to support me and without them I wouldn’t be here. My father is partly to thank for me becoming a footballer. He’s not the only one though. I have had uncles and cousins with whom I played all day. They have even been my coaches.”
Iñaki Williams recently credited García with helping him improve as a player and the 33-year-old shared that he enjoys helping other players. While he never approaches it as thinking that he’s better, García believes that he has important things to share with the next generation.
“Helping others is something I do that’s natural. It’s my way of being. I give people space. I observe, I learn how they are, and then I correct what I think is going to help them. It’s not a matter of saying ‘you have to be like this or that way’. I use my experience to try and lead them on a path in which I think they can do better.”
One player that García is currently mentoring is starlet Oihan Sancet. The 19-year-old made his first start with Athletic against Osasuna and García was quick to praise the Sancet as someone who could become a vital player at San Mamés. However, he also called on fans to have patient with Sancet who is still developing.
“If Oihan wasn’t good he wouldn’t be playing with us. He’s a complete player, physically strong. What I want is for people to be patient and not put more pressure on the younger players than they already have. He handles it well, but there are periods of maturity and you have to be calm. He has the nerve to play with confidence. The important thing is that he doesn’t lose it and that he keeps competing the same way. The good things is that he doesn’t have the feeling of demand, which will come later. You must go little by little and acquire the knowledge of what it means to be an Athletic player.”
Now a veteran, García was asked if he’s become one of the leaders in the current team. He doesn’t see it that way, but admitted that his experience can help others and that everyone in the team has to work together.
“I don’t consider myself the leader of this Athletic team. I have the experience from my years. I have lived situations that other players haven’t, the pressure, but it’s not a matter of leadership but of doing things in the best possible way. I’m in a group and we all have to adapt. I try to see how I can reach people. Many times it’s better to scream at a certain time than to repeat something every day.”
Throughout his career, García has gained a reputation of being a very aggressive and passionate player. He says it’s simply the way he plays the game, although he’s done a much better job of controlling his emotions in recent years.
“Honestly, I can’t be quiet when I play, but I’m regulating it and there are matches where I’m calmer. You have to understand that I’m working and take it very seriously. There are matches that I leave more calm because I have been able to control it. It’s about being in control. Off the field I’m totally different. I’m a calm person. It’s my way of competing and I would like to change it, but at the same time I need some of that.”
Athletic’s five-game winless streak feels like ages ago. Despite the negative results, García stated that the players felt confident throughout the run and that they must continue their current winning streak if they want to finish high in the table.
“When we went five games without winning the team didn’t feel like we were doing things wrong. On the contrary, we saw that we had options to get better results. We were calm because we trust what we do. We have to keep winning. We have the peace of mind of working and seeing that the results are coming, but the standings are anecdotal. We know that the league is very long.”
Part of Athletic’s recent success has come as a result of Gaizka Garitano moving Raúl García to the striker position. While he’s still new to the role, García says that he’s trying to help the team as much as he can and will play wherever the coach thinks is best.
“I’m trying to find my best level as the nine. I will have my flaws and things that I don’t do well because it’s a position in which I haven’t played very much. If the team wins, that’s it, that’s the important thing. If I have to stay there I will continue doing it. Scoring is the joy of football. The funny thing is that when you play a bad game but score it seems that you have done well and that’s not the case. There are many other things in football. Sometimes goals cover other deficiencies in a game.”
With Athletic now 5th in the table there has been talk of the Lions possibly competing for Champions League qualification. “The obligation is to work every day and get the best performance from the team,” García answered when asked about Athletic’s goals. “It would be nice to return to Europe, but there are many other teams with that goal. It’s not necessary to hide that it’s something we would like and that we are working for it.”
On Sunday Athletic will attempt to climb into 4th place when they host Granada at San Mamés. The newly promoted side have been one of the biggest surprised this year but the only thing García is focused on is Athletic playing their game at home.
“I trust my teammates and little else. Granada is a team with resources. They have very clear ideas and good players. It won’t be easy. They are not just a good team, they also have individual quality. They have understood that you have to work and that makes them complicated.”
Over the summer García signed a contract renewal that will see him continue at Athletic through 2021. The 33-year-old will reach 200 matches with the Zurigorri this year, barring any major injures, and was asked to recount his best moment with the club to date. “If I had to choose one it would be my debut,” he answered quickly. “I scored and we won. What I want is to continue adding many more goals and to be happy the day that I have to leave.”
After returning to training on Friday García is expected to start on Sunday against Granada. With Aritz Aduriz and Iker Muniain both sidelined with injuries it will be up to Raúl García and others to step up for Athletic to continue their great performances. A win at San Mamés could see the Basques climb into the top four but competition remains close behind.