Andoni López “My Main Objective Is To Return And Play For The First Team”
Andoni López is one of the three first team players spending the season away on loan and for the 23-year-old, who is currently with Elche, this may be his last chance to earn a place in the Athletic squad. The Lezama product is now on his second loan spell and hopes to prove that he deserves a role at San Mamés.
“My main objective is to return, stay, and play for the first team,” López told Javier Beltrán in a recent interview with AS. “It’s very difficult and you have to make good decisions. Peru, Iñigo, and I made good decisions to go on loan and play in the Segunda, which isn’t easy. We are fighting for next year, or in more time, to be in the first team.”
Peru Nolaskoain and Iñigo Vicente are also enjoying success while playing on loan with Deportivo and Mirandés respectively. López shared that the trio speak regularly about their performances. “They are in the same situation as me and we already had a great relationship at Bilbao Athletic. We talk, we communicate, and we share how we are each doing. It’s good to talk to each other.”
Despite making just nine appearances so far this season López is pleased with how his loan has gone. “I’m happy with how I’ve done,” he said. “There is a lot of competition and I think I’ve had good performances. I must make it difficult for the coach to choose. Last year at Almeria I was lucky to play a lot in the first half of the season and was at a good level, but I was new to the Segunda. The bad thing was the injury. ”
It took several weeks for the loan agreement to be reached with Elche due to contract and wage issues. López was forced to wait but felt that a move to Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero was the best decision.
“There was interest in a loan for this year and the end of last season and Pacheta made it very clear that he wanted me here. I’m very grateful. After not enjoying the minutes I wanted in Almeria, I was grateful. The process took longer than expected but it worked out well.”
Although he’s away from Bilbao, López doesn’t feel isolated. “Every week there is communication about how we’ve played or about things like injuries,” admitted the defender. “They do a great job with us. On the field, Athletic have taken a competitive lead and the team is very solid. It’s difficult to score against them and they have improved in the final third.”
Earning a place at Athletic won’t be easy for López with Yuri Berchiche currently one of the best left-backs in La Liga. Before leaving for loan last year, López was actually moved to center-back temporarily and says he is willing to play wherever the manager needs him.
“The left-back position is well-covered at Athletic. Yuri has a great resume and I tried to learn from him in the preseason. He’s at a spectacular level. In the end you have to play where the manager puts you, but I have more room to improve as a left back. I have to be prepared to play as a center-back or fullback and adapt.”
López and Unai Simón became very close friends during their time together at Lezama and the goalkeeper actually joined Elche last summer on loan before quickly being recalled by Athletic. “Unai spent two weeks at Elche and I’m not surprised by how well he’s done. We spent many years together at Lezama and I know how good he is. He’s one of the best in Spain.”
Andoni López is hoping to have more opportunities with Elche moving forward as he seeks to earn his place in the Athletic first team. The 23-year-old is under contract with the Zurigorri through next season and will fight for a role when he returns from loan in the summer.