Mikel Vesga “I’m Working To Play And Have Continuity At Athletic”
Throughout the first few months of the season Mikel Vesga found it nearly impossible to see the field. The midfielder was often left out of the squad completely, but a lot has changed since then. Vesga has taken on a more important role recently with starts against Intercity, Real Madrid, and Sevilla and is happy to be enjoying regular minutes once again.
“Between one thing and another I managed to play in three straight games,” Vesga told Iñaki Ugalde of Mundo Deportivo. “I’m happy because I was having trouble getting minutes and participating. I’m also aware of my role. I don’t know if starting depends on whether we play with three defenders or not but I already knew this system from Leganés and I think that benefitted me.”
Vesga went on to admit that it was difficult to go so long without playing. However, the 26-year-old was confident that chances would come if he continued to work hard in training in show his best.
“It’s been tough for me because it took me a few months to get in and nobody likes to be like that, but I was are of what my role was. I knew that by doing things well the opportunity would arrive. I’m happy and waiting for more minutes. I have changed a lot and I’ve matured quite a lot, especially in everyday life. I’m improving my game and I’ve changed many things for the better.”
Spending time at Sporting and Leganés on loan had a big impact on helping Vesga earn a place in the Athletic squad. Despite being a part of Sporting’s relegation campaign, Vesga enjoyed his time at the club.
“The loan with Sporting was a curious and beautiful year for me. I debuted with Athletic at El Molinón and then was able to spend halve a year with Sporting. I enjoyed it very much. When I arrived the situation was complicated and we had a good second round, but it wasn’t enough to save us. It left a bitter taste.”
Vesga showed his very best while playing with Leganés last season. In fact, the midfielder performed so well that Leganés asked several times to keep him for another year. In the end, Vesga’s goal has always been to succeed at Athletic.
“It was hard to enter the team at Leganés. I didn’t participate in the first two months and then once I did I stayed in the lineup for the rest of the year. I really enjoyed my best year with Leganés. I had a good relationship with Pellegrino. I adapted to what he asked but I wanted to play here. That has always been my idea.”
Kuko Ziganda promoted Vesga to the first team in 2017 after coaching the midfielder for two years at Bilbao Athletic. Vesga explained that he enjoyed playing under Ziganda and is surprised that the manager hasn’t taken another coaching job since leaving Athletic.
“I worked with Ziganda for three years. I played almost everything for two and a half years but, in the end, I didn’t participate that much. I’m a little surprised that he’s still not coaching. I know he has been to England and learning more. Sooner or later Ziganda will lead some team.”
Looking back, Vesga’s move to Athletic back in 2014 was scandalous. After rejecting a renewal offer in order to sign with Athletic, Vesga was kept out of the Alavés B team until the end of the campaign.
“The decision to come to Athletic was purely professional. I liked the idea of leaving home. I had been going to the Mendizorrotza since I was a child and played at Alavés for eight years. I have very good memories of my time there and so many friends. What happened at that time is forgotten. Now I’m focussed on trying to do things well here.”
In recent weeks Alavés have expressed interest in signing Vesga on loan, but the midfielder said he hasn’t heard anything. Regardless, Vesga is only thinking about succeeding at Athletic and knows he has to fight for his place daily because there are many talented midfielders coming through Lezama.
“I don’t know. I’m working to play and have continuity at Athletic. I would love to be here for many years, but you have to earn it on a daily basis. The years pass for everyone and those from the academy come in handy. Vencedor and Sancet are great promises and Unai López has had more prominence than Beñat or San José. There are young players coming through.”
Along with qualifying for Europe this season, Athletic are determined to challenge for the Copa del Rey title. The Basques were recently drawn against Elche and will travel to Estadio Martínez Valero next week which just so happens to be the same stadium where Athletic faced Intercity in the opening round of the cup.
“It’s a coincidence. We return to a good field against an opponent who is doing things well. We will treat the game as seriously as we did against Intercity and Sestao. This year the new format has more incentive and requires you take take every game more seriously. I really like that it is one match because if you do things right you can be in the final stages and that’s what we want to do.”
Vesga has spent some time training as an emergency defender this season, though he’s not very comfortable in the position. “I normally play in a pivot, but I can adapt to anywhere,” he admitted. “I’m indifferent to where I play because I feel equally comfortable anywhere in the midfield. I don’t see myself as a center-back, it’s not my forte. I can play the ball, yes, but to be a defender you have to have more things and I just don’t see myself there.”
Gaizka Garitano is expected to field just two center-backs in Sunday’s match against Celta Vigo, though Mikel Vesga could keep his place in the lineup. Celta won the first meeting 1-0 back in October by playing physical football and the Mister could choose to add muscle to the midfield at San Mamés. Athletic will be favorites to win at home and will have to be at their best to take all three points.