Dani García “From The Beginning We Took The Cup Very Seriously”
With each passing day it feel more and more as though football will not return this season. Players, like everyone else, are quarantined to their homes as coronavirus cases continue to increase. So far, no one at Athletic has tested positive for Covid-19 and the general public has begun to take the pandemic much more seriously than at first.
“No, I haven’t been tested,” Dani García told Alfonso Herrán in an interview with AS. “The club’s medical service is in charge. Fortunately, no one on the team is infected or has symptoms of anything. The first day after training, on my way home, there where to many people on the street. Now we take it much more seriously. I have gone out to do the shopping and people are in a hurry to get back home. There’s more awareness now.”
García admitted that it’s easy for him to get out of shape so he’s having to take the training at home very seriously. Whenever football does return players must be in the best physical shape possible to contribute to their teams.
“It can be difficult but I’m taking it seriously and doing a lot of exercises. It’s easy for me to put on weight. It’s difficult to maintain weight so I’m trying to play sports at home and not eat as much. This break bothers me, but I appreciate the rest because I had played a lot of minutes. It helps me regain strength.”
Despite being a key player for Athletic and playing more minutes than anyone else, García doesn’t consider himself to be essential. It’s true that the 29-year-old is comfortable playing under Gaizka Garitano, but he knows that he can’t afford to relax.
“I never feel essential, not when I was at Eibar and not now. I know the coach has confidence in me and that gives me peace of mind to train well and give my best. I have earned that trust from Gaizka here and in the past. He knows what I can give. I think what he asks me to do is good and that’s what I have played so much.”
Indeed, Garitano’s system is getting the very best out of García who had a history of picking up too many yellow cards in the past. Instead of being asked to press high up the pitch which can lead to fouls, García now plays a more protective role in front of the back line.
“You have to think about how different coaches ask you to play. With Mendilibar and Escalante I received 16 yellow cards in one season. It’s not normal. We went out to press in the opposing end of the field and if your press was bad you caught yourself in the wrong positions. It was the same with Berizzo. With Gaizka I’m the one who does the coverage and, except for the game against Barcelona that I went out to push higher, I stay back so I don’t commit as many fouls. The change in style has helped me.”
Garitano’s recent switch to three center-backs has also helped García. “Yes, especially when it comes to pressing,” he assessed. “I can press higher with three center-backs but with two I have to measure myself a lot.” Either way, the midfielder is committing fewer fouls this season.
The biggest thing everyone is thinking about right now is when, or rather if, the Copa del Rey final will take place. “We all have one thing in mind: the Cup final and finishing the season well,” said García. “It’s what makes us work hard at home and stay in high spirits. Yesterday my girlfriend woke me up and I was dreaming about the final. It’s where we all draw our strength right now.”
Athletic’s path to the final hasn’t been easy. “From the very beginning we took the Cup very seriously because it was a unique opportunity. Against Elche and Tenerife we faced 120 minutes and we were a lucky team. Then we beat Barcelona and Granada. Now we are doing to compete for the title.”
In today’s current situation, García believes that people are seeing what is really important in life. Things like football are greatly missed, but being with family and loved ones is the greatest treasure.
“We don’t value the things we have like being out on the street and with friends. We don’t value it because we live so fast. We didn’t enjoy the moment. Now we are missing a lot of things and surrounding ourselves with family. The world is seen differently. The important thing is to be positive-minded. I get up and start doing things, I try to be distracted, because if I don’t stay busy my mind will race and that’s the worst thing of all.”
García admitted that he had some worries when he first joined Athletic. “My biggest fear about coming to a new team was that I wouldn’t find myself at ease like in Eibar,” he said. “The truth is that I’m delighted here. One of the things I’ve missed these days is having breakfast together and being at Lezama.” Dani García has found a new home at Athletic Club and hopes to be back with his teammates as coaches as soon as possible.