Yuri Berchiche “When All Of This Disappears We Will Talk About Sports Again”
For weeks the Athletic players have shared their willingness to lower wages in order to help the club during the health crisis. The football stoppage has already had a major financial impact on clubs and last night Athletic formally announced that an agreement had been reached with the first team squad. If the season isn’t completed the players will take a 17% pay cut but if the campaign does return, albeit without fans, there will only be a 6% reduction.
“It was clear that we had to get there because of the situation today, which is not easy, and after many meetings we reached the agreement,” Yuri Berchiche told La Modiva Deportiva during an interview on Onda Vasca. “The captains spent many hours discussing what was the best option with the directors and the players.”
Berchiche, who scored the biggest goal of the season to send Athletic through to the Copa del Rey final, is struck by just how much life has changed since that magical night at Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes.
“Who could have imagined on that day that we would be like this now, but it’s what we have to live through and all of a sudden football is in the background. Obviously, the important thing is the health of everyone. When all of this disappears we will talk about sports again.”
In the meantime, players are quarantined to their homes where staying in shape is the biggest priority. “Training at home is good, but things like sprinting are missed,” said Berchiche. “We can run on the treadmill, which we are all doing at home, but not at high speeds.”
In the absence of being able to train normally the left-back admits that everyone will lack conditioning when football returns. Hopefully, a period of time will be given to get back in shape.
“We are going to lose a lot of physical conditioning, but I’m also hearing that we are going to have 2-3 weeks to re-adapt. I already imagine that the coaching staff will have everything prepared for when we return.”
Along with training at home, eating well is also important. Berchiche highlights that failing to have a proper diet right now could lead to injuries when football returns due to a lack of nutrition.
“Food is also a small detail and we can’t let ourselves get carried away during this confinement. You try to take care of the diet because if you don’t you could be more at risk of injury when we go back. You have to follow a strict diet because the matches will come quickly when we are back. I understand that we could be playing every three days so a good diet is very important right now. In my care I think I’ve done quite well.”
Looking back on his career Berchiche admits his early days with Real Sociedad were difficult. “The first two years I didn’t feel that they had confidence in me,” he said. “I think I played my best when Eusebio Sacristán arrived with his coaching staff because that’s when I felt that I had the confidence to be free on the field. I played great football in my third year.”
Even though he would eventually leave for PSG the left-back still has fond memories of his time in Donosti. “I learned a lot of La Real. I have great love for the club and owe them very much. Even though I play for Athletic today I will always have the beautiful memory in my heart of the three years that I was there.”
Once he joined PSG, Berchiche was in an entirely different environment. Winning the favor of then-manager Unai Emery was integral to earning a starting role in his lone season in Paris.
“Living day to day with the world stars is an experience that I will always remember from there. I knew that if I wanted to play I was going to have to work every day. I had a meeting with Unai (Emery) and he told me to be patient, to work hard, and that if I did things well my time would come.”
Berchiche quickly became a key player for the club and enjoy tremendous success. “Little by little I was getting more opportunities and played in 32 games, which wasn’t bad for the first year, and I was also lucky enough to win four titles and savor that success. There’s nothing like winning titles, it’s a unique feeling.”
However, when Unai Emery left the club Berchiche suspected that he would quickly lose his place. Leaving PSG was seen as the only way to continue enjoying football.
“The problem I had was that there was going to be a new coach. Unai was the one betting on me and I wanted to continue playing. I had doubts that I would play if I stayed in Paris with the new coaching staff and players that were being signed.”
When presented with the chance to join Athletic there were no doubts. Berchiche was excited to return to his former club and says that he couldn’t be happier playing at San Mamés now.
“On the other hand I had the option of playing for a club like Athletic with the incredible stadium and philosophy they have which I love. It was the challenge that I wanted. With all those positive things I took the step of coming here to Bilbao and I’m super happy that I did. Now we have the possibility of finishing the season by winning the Copa del Rey title which is special to Athletic.”
Ever since Berchiche scored the late goal against Granada the city of Bilbao has been dreaming of the Copa del Rey final. When that match will take place is still a mystery given the pandemic, but the players are working hard at home to be ready when football returns with hopes of lifting the club’s 25th Cup title.