Iñigo Vicente “I’m Not Just Working To Debut, But To Play Many Games And Win A Title With Athletic”
It was a slow start to the season for Iñigo Vicente but the Lezama product has quickly found his best form with Mirandés. The 21-year-old scored three goals in November and was nominated for the Segunda Player of the Month award which was fully deserved. Leaving on loan has been a great opportunity to learn and Vicente told Iñaki Ugalde in an interview with Mundo Deportivo that he’s enjoying the experience.
“It’s been very good. It’s very easy to connect with the city. The fans are close and the players too. Many people are close to the team and they take care of us a lot. Living alone and making your own food is an experience. I find it strange, but I spend many afternoons with my teammates. We have a very young group.”
Along with learning to live on his own, Vicente has also had to adjust to a very different environment in Miranda de Ebro. “Athletic and Mirandés are two very different teams,” he explained. “There are many nationalities at Mirandés and we have to adapt to that. We are doing very well, although sometimes even language can be a problem. At Bilbao Athletic we were all from home.”
It’s certainly been a transition to life outside of Lezama. “I’ve been there all my life and this is an experience that is helping me,” said Vicente. “I’m maturing a lot as a footballer and as a person. I’m meeting older players who have had many experiences in football and that he’s me to learn things better on and off the field.”
This, however, isn’t the first time Vicente has left Lezama. The starlet did so several years ago and spent one season with Danok Bat before rejecting an offer from Real Madrid to return to Athletic.
“Yes, I left Lezama for one year but I don’t remember it. I went to Danok Bat at seven or eight and we had a good team and a good season. I returned the following year. It’s true that Real Madrid called me before the offer to return to Lezama arrived. I was younger then and I don’t remember much of it either. I value certain things and as soon as Athletic called there was no doubt about it.”
Throughout his young career, defending has always been the area in which Vicente need to improve and both Gaizka Garitano and Andoni Iraola have made that clear. “They’ve told me what is good for me,” Vicente explained. “Not only Gaizka and Iraola, Etxeberria and the rest of the coaches I’ve had have done the same. What I lack, they say, is doing important work without the ball. They’ve told me for my benefit. When I was younger Tiko was a reference for me as well as Etxeberria whom I had as a coach. He taught me many things.”
Spending the season with Mirandés has forced Vicente to take a step forward with his defensive contributions in order to have regular minutes. The forward stated that every player has to give their best effort in each game or the team won’t be successful.
“We all have to work at Mirandés because if we don’t then the team suffers. There are times when you don’t have to run so much. You have to be smarter and have the ball and when you do that you make the opponent run more. Personally, I really like a 4-2-3-1 formation. I’ve been playing on the left wing for years and at mediapunta as well. I’ve played forward all my life. Right now I like playing on the left.”
When the decision was made for Vicente to spend the season away on loan it wasn’t difficult to choose the location. The opportunity to train under Athletic legend Andoni Iraola was very important to the starlet who also saw Mirandés as the ideal place to grow over the course of the campaign.
“He (Andoni Iraola) told me that he wanted to have me here, that he trusted me. He said that he had seen me play several games and that this was a good place to keep growing and improving. I already knew him, it’s Iraola. He’s part of Athletic history and it’s a pleasure to have him as a coach. My family has always instilled in me what it means to be Athletic.”
Vicente nearly made his first team debut last season when he was called up for two games, but never saw the field. Now the 21-year-old is working to make his dream happen next year, though he plans to accomplish much more at Athletic than simply making his first appearance.
“I was called up for the trip to Seville, in the Cup, but I was left out of the team. At San Mamés I warmed up in the second half but never came on. I am eager to make my debut with Athletic. I’m not just working to debut, but to play many games and, if I can, win a title with Athletic.”
It’s very important for players on loan to feel that they are being seen by their club and that’s certainly been the case for Vicente. The starlet actually admitted that he’s spoken to Gaizka Garitano on several occasions and has been encouraged by the conversations.
“Yes, we have talked and he has even congratulated me because I’m doing well. He’s told me to keep it up. The trust is that I feel surrounded and supported by Athletic. Tiko, for example, talks me a lot after games. He advises me, congratulates me, and corrects me. Also, I go to watch Athletic whenever I can.”
Vicente has never been shy about the fact that it has taken him some time to adjust each time he’s moved up a level. It happened with CD Basconia, Bilbao Athletic, and Mirandés but each time his quality was eventually unleashed. For the remainder of the campaign Vicente hopes to continue improving and return to Athletic prepared to compete for a place in the team.
“My goal for the season is to grow as a player, improve the aspects that I lack, keep playing my football, score goals, and give assists. I’m confident. I’ve done well and I have to keep it up. It’s always been difficult for me to adapt to a new level. The same happened with Garitano at Bilbao Athletic and it was difficult for me to adapt to the rhythm of the Segunda at first.”
While Vicente needed to leave in order to have minutes this season, Oihan Sancet was allowed to split time between Bilbao Athletic and the first team. The 19-year-old has started the last two games for Athletic and Vicente said Sancet fully deserves his opportunity, while also defending Iñigo Córdoba who has been subject to criticism throughout the season.
“Sancet has done well and deserves to be there. I don’t understand why Córdoba was whistled at San Mamés because players need confidence, especial when things don’t work out. When the fans whistle it sinks in for a player. Córdoba is one of the players I will compete with when I return and it will be difficult to overtake his position.”
Vicente has done so well as of late that some have questioned if Athletic would consider terminating his loan early and bringing him back to the club. However, the 21-year-old confirmed that there is no clause in the agreement that would allow him to return in January. For now, Iñigo Vicente is very happy with his experience with Mirandés and is determined to prove himself and fight for his place at San Mamés when his loan ends.