Gaizka Garitano And José Luis Mendilibar Share Their History Ahead Of Saturday’s Basque Derby

Gaizka Garitano Lezama Mendilibar

Gaizka Garitano and José Luis Mendilibar during a friendly at Lezama (AC)

Gaizka Garitano and José Luis Mendilibar have much in common. Apart from coaching both Athletic and Eibar and attending Lezama, the two managers have a strong relationship that goes back over 20 years. On Saturday the two friends will meet as opponents when Athletic host Eibar at San Mamés for a Basque Derby and in the buildup to the game the coaches shared a sofa at Lezama to talk about their relationship.

“We were together at Eibar during the 2004/2005 season,” began Mendilibar. “Before that, in the years when you were the coach of Bilbao Athletic I was being discarded from the first team,”Garitano cut in and the two shared a laugh. “I trained with you for about 15 days, then few years later we were together at Eibar.”

Mendilibar recounted what it was like to coach Garitano who was the captain of Eibar during the one season they were together. “I was a coach and he was a player, but the relationship was always good. You don’t know what it was like to train him. If he got something in his head he had to do it, but for the team he was a good player and also a good person.”

Likewise, Garitano learned much from Mendilibar but admitted that he was a very stern manager which is still true today and part of the reason for his success. “I learned a lot form him. On the field he was very hard and it permeated the team with a lot of intensity. When you were being tough many times I would get angry, but when the work was done it was just the opposite. He’s a good and nice person.”

Mendilibar may be the one that has helped keep Eibar in the first division, but it was Garitano who guided the club to promotion. “The Athletic model is always there and strong as usual, but I think Eibar had a bit of luck when Gaizka came,” said Mendilibar. “At that time it was just when the club started getting television money and everything worked together.”

Jose Luis Mendilibar

Mendilibar managed Athletic Club in 2005 and also coache

Garitano, like Mendilibar, fully understands the differences between Athletic and Eibar. One is a giant in La Liga with the expectation to compete for Europe every single, while the other proudly boasts the smallest stadium in the league. They may be different, but Garitano sees the beauty in both.

“Each case is different. I’ve been there and it’s different, a small city and less media. Athletic is a bigger club with a larger budget, but more special on the part of the philosophy. Eibar is also very special with the way they have grown and how they are maintained every year being such a small city. It’s because they are like a family. It’s a beautiful case in football and they have stayed in the Primera for many years with Mendi. It’s very beautiful and special int he world of football.”

In closing, Mendilibar looked ahead to Saturday’s match which will kick off at 6:30pm in Bilbao. “It’s a good time for the fans, there’s time to eat,” he said. “Whoever wins will have time to celebrate too. I think it will be a beautiful day. San Mamés will be full so let’s see if a nice game comes out.” Eibar have never beaten Athletic at the Cathedral but both sides will be playing for all three points.

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