Aitor Karanka “What I Have Done In Football Is Because Of Athletic”
Athletic’s ongoing pursuit of Javi Martinez has many fans excited about the possibility of the midfielder returning to San Mamés. However, not everyone is in favor of the move. Considering the dramatic way Martinez left the club in 2012 there is a large group of fans who don’t believe the 31-year-old should be allowed back. It wouldn’t be the first time a former player made a controversial return.
“You can go back to Athletic, I did it,” says Aitor Karanka. The former Athletic defender recently spoke with Juanma Velasco of Marca about his time at the club which can be similarly compared to that of Javi Martinez. After being promoted to the first team in 1993, Karanka would eventually leave for Real Madrid in 1997 before returning in 2002 for a few seasons.
Fans were angry with Karanka’s decision to depart and he was welcomed with hostility when his Real Madrid side visited San Mamés not long after the move. “It was 95 minutes of whistles,” Karanka recalls.
Despite making the decision to leave Athletic, Karanka would have the opportunity to return and even helped the team qualify for the UEFA Cup. He admits that joining Real Madrid was a difficult decision but says that he was excited to come back to Athletic.
“The decision to leave for Real Madrid was difficult. Real Madrid wanted me and I was lucky to be in three European Cups in five years. Then I was free and I had options to go to other Champions League teams, but I decided to return to Bilbao. It was thanks to the late Javi Uria because of the trust he put in me. When you do things well and do the best for both parties why wouldn’t you come back?”
Since retiring from football Karanka has served as an assistant coach at Real Madrid before managing both Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forrest. Looking back, the 46-year-old owes much of his success to his time at Athletic.
“I arrived at Lezama at the age of 15 and at 18 I won the league and U19 Cup with many who would later play in the Primera. Those from that group still maintain a relationship and contact. From there I had many good moments at Athletic. My education came from home, but Athletic has represented almost the same in terms of values and so on. Much of what I have done in football has been because of what they gave me at Athletic.”
Looking at the current team, Karanka says qualifying for the Cup final is a massive achievement. The former defender is pleased with the work that Gaizka Garitano has done as manager and hopes the Lions can lift the Copa del Rey trophy again.
“Being in the final is impressive, but to get there sometimes you have to choose which competition to prioritize and that has cost them in league games. The Cup would be a very good prize and I think Gaizka is doing a great job that will culminate in the Cup final.”
Aitor Karanka’s career is a good example of someone who left Athletic but one day returned and helped lead the team to success. Javi Martinez could be the next to do so, but other clubs many clubs will be competing for his signature during the next transfer window.