Unai Simón “My Goal Is To Give Everything For This Club”
Unai Simón is standing in the shadows and tradition of the legendary goalkeepers of the past. The responsibility of defending the Athletic goal is great, but the 22-year-old has his feet planted firmly on the ground. Speaking with Iñaki Ugalde of Mundo Deportivo, Simón explained that he’s excited to wear the Number 1 shirt and committed to giving everything for the club.
“Athletic welcomed me when I was 10 years old and started to train me not only as a player, but also as a person. This club has given me the life I’m living right now. What better way to thank them than by playing at San Mamés for as long as possible! I also understand that it may be the case that another goalkeepers comes, passes me like an airplane, and leaves me on the bench. My goal is to give everything for this club.”
Having been developed at Lezama, Simón has seen many great goalkeepers either playing for the club or during training. When asked about those who he’s most enjoyed working with, he was ready to give a quick answer.
“Armando (Ribeiro), although I have seen him train more than play, and Imanol Etxeberria. I never saw Imanol play, but he’s the best coach I’ve had so far. He’s spectacular. His shots are so precise that I would be sunk on the field because of the goals he scored on me during warm-ups.”
Kepa Arrizabalaga’s departure to Chelsea opened the door for Alex Remiro to become the starting goalkeeper at Athletic. However, a contract dispute saw him leave the club and Simón took the opportunity to prove himself worthy of the important role.
“Kepa is a great goalkeeper. He’s very complete and has a lot of personality. Kepa is a one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Remiro is a goalkeeper with a lot of character. He’s hot-blooded and it’s been seen that he’s picking up the Primera rhythm little by little. He’s gone from less to more and is at a point where he could be called up by the National Team.”
The starting role wasn’t simply handed to Simón as he had to beat out Iago Herrerín for the job. “Iago is one of the best teammates I’ve had under the sticks,” said Simón. “He’s a goalkeeper with a mental capacity on the field that’s different from others and that makes him special. Iago is very calm during tense moments and I want to learn to have that cold blood that he shows in difficult situations.”
Simón has quickly established himself as one of the best goalkeeper sin Europe this season, but playing behind an exceptional defense certainly helps.
“Having Unai Núñez with Yeray and Iñigo Martinez in front of me is life insurance because they are three animals. I feel more comfortable with Gaizka’s bet for three defenders, but also with four because there is more organization in the team and a solid feeling as a group.”
Núñez has spent much of the season sitting behind Yeray and Iñigo Martinez, but has the quality to become a world class defender. Simón believes that he’s already a top center-back in football and feels at ease when Núñez is on the field.
“I think he’s one of the best. Like me has hasn’t been characterized by his dominance with the ball at his feet, which is good but not like Iñigo, but rather by his great defending. He has already been in the Spanish team and that’s a big deal. Besides that I love him a lot because we are the same age and have played together at the lower levels. Unai is great and seems to me like an animal in defense.”
On a personal level, Simón was being considered for the Spain squad for EURO 2020 which has since been postponed until next summer. The goalkeeper shared that he wasn’t counting on being included in the team and thus doesn’t feel like he missed out.
“I feel very good, but there is a very high level of goalkeepers. I wasn’t counting on it because I have not yet been called up so I have to be realistic, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they called me either because I’m doing things well for my club. The important thing is to keep playing well and things will come when they come.”
As part of the interview Simón weighed in on the debate for the best goalkeeper in football, giving his vote to Jan Oblak. He also praised Marc-André Ter Stegen as a top player while revealing that he has always looked up to Gianluigi Buffon as well as many who have worn the gloves for Athletic Club.