Unai López “I Will Learn Everything It Takes To Help The Team Win”
Unai López took an uncommon path to reach the Athletic first team, but the 24-year-old has finally arrived. After making his debut back in 2014, López had to leave on loan twice in order to take the next step in his career and is now reaping the rewards of his hard work. The midfielder is playing heavy minutes as an important player for Gaizka Garitano and is excited about his role.
“Everything has helped me,” López told Fuera de Juego when asked about the time he spent on loan. “The two years that I was away helped me mature and realize what each team needs. The year at Rayo was very important for me and I learned a lot. I’m happy with the role I’m playing now, especially after a tough year. My performances can be more complete. I’ve had good games and worse games, but I’ve always been calm.”
Over the weekend López had his very best performance in an Athletic shirt as the Lions defeated Granada 2-0 at San Mamés. After the game, Garitano praised the young midfielder which meant a lot to López. “I’m grateful for the words and Gaizka is right,” he said. “I have learned to defend more. It’s very important in football today and I will learn everything it takes to help the team win and be high up the table.”
López provided the assist for Yuri Berchiche’s goal late in the second half which sealed the victory against Granada. “I saw that he was going to get there,” said López when asked about his pass that created the goal. “I tried to put the ball on him and the pass went perfect. Then Yuri put it in and that made the pass even better.”
Over the years, defending has often been an issue for López who has excelled in other areas such as creating chances and passing. However, the Lezama product has taken huge steps forward to become a better player defensively and knows he must continue improving in to keep his role in the team.
“I’ve always liked possession football and playing with the ball, but the reality today is that you have to be a little more complete. You have to defend. This is especially the case at Athletic, Gaizka demands it. I understand my role clearly and defending is vital to have minutes and for the coach to count on me.”
Despite the confidence from Garitano, López has one played a full 90 minutes twice this season. When asked if he’s dealt with fatigue the midfielder said that it hasn’t been an issue. “I don’t notice it, but I don’t know. The other day I showed that I can play ninety good minutes. I played the whole game and that helps.
López had spent the past five years trying to break into the first team and now that he has he isn’t taking anything for granted. “I realize that I’m living the experience to the fullest, but I’m very calm because I haven’t done anything,” he said bluntly. “I know that I have to work hard to continue like this and continue being counted on by Gaizka.” On Sunday Athletic will travel to Real Betis and Unai López will be hoping to build on his excellent performance against Granada.