Andoni Iraola “Athletic’s Goal Should Always Be To Fight For Europe”
Andoni Iraola is still widely considered to be the best right-back to ever play for Athletic. A true leader on and off the field, Iraola was always expected to transition into coaching when he decided to retire as a player and so far he’s enjoying success. After managing AEK Larnaca, the 37-year-old took over as the coach for Mirandés during the summer following the club’s promotion to the Segunda.
On Wednesday, the Lezama graduate and Athletic legend was recognized by the Mirandesa Brotherhood of Bilbao with a tribute held at the headquarters of Peña Athletic Juvenil on Poza Street. “This makes me very excited,” said the former Athletic captain. “In Miranda I have met people with that pride of their land, as is the case in Bilbao with Athletic.”
The event was also attended by Carlos Gurpegui, Aitor Elizegi, and Mirandés President Alfredo de Miguel. “Coaching is a completely different profession,” Iraola explained. “It’s like starting from scratch, although the experience of being a player is an advantage. Coaching matches in the Europe League with another language was an experience. I’m focused on growing as a coach and keeping Mirandés in the Segunda is my fight. It was hard for us to start. Overall we did fine but made mistakes that cost us points at the beginning of the campaign. Now we’ve been ascending for a while.”
Iraola was also asked to give his opinion on Athletic at the moment, as well as Iñigo Vicente who is currently spending the season on loan with Mirandés. “Athletic are doing very well,” he answered. “Defensively they are a reliable team. They press well, have personality, and the goal should always be to fight for Europe positions. Iñigo has looked good. He’s participating more and more and I hope he will continue along this line. You don’t have to put more pressure on him. He burns stages and had a very good predisposition from the beginning.”
Interestingly, Iraola went on to explain that he believes Iñigo Vicente can be the best player in the team if he continues improving the way he has been. The manager also brushed off the question about signing Asier Villalibre on loan by saying that Mirandés already have three strikers.
“Although Iñigo had to play less at the beginning, he continued to improve and now he’s played several games as a starter and is scoring goals. If he continues like this he will be the best player from when he arrived. Villalibre? It’s not up to me. Right now we have three strikers who are giving us good performances…Marcos André, Matheus, and Barco who has been injured. It’s a position that we have covered well.”
Of course, Iraola was also asked if he wants to coach Athletic one day. “Right now I have a lot of work to do with Mirandés,” he responded politely. “Here, just like when I was a player, I’m focused on achieving objectives. Right now I have a very nice challenge and I’m not thinking about anything else.” Andoni Iraola’s Mirandés currently sit 12th in the Segunda table and have been in excellent form over the past month.