Ernesto Valverde “Having Players Come Through Lezama Is An Advantage”
As a former player, youth coach, and first team manager, Ernesto Valverde is more qualified than most to speak on matters pertaining to Athletic. While joining a panel conducted by the Basque Football Federation – along with Aitor Karanka, Roberto Olabe, Mikel Etxarri, and Xabier Azkargorta – the 56-year-old was asked if the club’s reliance on Lezama adds pressure when coaching at San Mamés.
“No, not at all,” he quickly responded. “I see it more as an advantage. The players who are close to coming up always have a solid base. You see them every day and know how they breathe. You know the adaption that they’re going to have to the first team is going to be simple.”
Unlike most clubs, Valverde points out that players coming through Lezama are often more prepared when joining the first team and gave two recent examples.
“There are players who have clearly entered the first team in recent years without going through any kind of transition to be able to start. Yeray’s case is clear, Córdoba’s as well. Having players coming through Lezama is an advantage for the coach.”
Valverde also discussed a few topics about managing a team and compared having assistant coaches overseeing different positions during training to someone “balancing plates at the circus without dropping the.” As a coach known for his team playing a high press, Valverde explained the need for each player to be convinced by the system.
“The most important thing when you are going to use high pressure is that the players are convinced that it’s the best thing. There’s nothing worse than a player pressing high because the coach tells him to and he feels obliged, but doesn’t believe in it. Then that player becomes an overflowing player and the design falls like a house of cards.”
A successful system requires each player to do their part in order for everything to work together properly. Still, Valverde says everyone must believe in the game plan.
“There is important individual responsibility, but then there is also a collective responsibility. The first player to initiate pressure attracts everyone else. There has to be a conviction and that is the job of the coach to convince the players that what they are going to do is the best option.”
Ernesto Valverde coached 306 games for Athletic, the most by any manager in club history, and is widely regarded as one of the best to ever lead the Zurigorri. Athletic’s last trophy came during Valverde’s tenure when the Lions lifted the Spanish Super Cup, but that could soon change with Athletic having advanced to the Copa del Rey final.