Rafa Alkorta “The Formation Of Players For The First Team Is The Priority”
Planning for the future has become much more challenging given the pandemic, but there are issues that must be addressed. For instance, Athletic midfielders Beñat and Mikel San José are both out of contract at the end of the season and the club has yet to decide whether or not to offer renewals to the two veterans.
“There is time to resolve the issues with ease,” said Sporting Director Rafa Alkorta while talking with Onda Vasca. “When I speak with Gaizka we stick to right now, focusing on the eleven games and the Cup final. Everything will be resolved when we sit back down at Lezama and discuss next year.”
The assumption is that Beñat and Mikel San José will not be given renewals and will be free to leave the club. If so, starlets such as Oihan Sancet, Unai Vencedor, and Peru Nolaskoain will all compete for places in the squad. Due to revenue loss clubs will be forced to rely on youth products more than ever before.
“The big teams will continue to sign players. The rest will not be able to spend as much and will have to pull from their reserve teams and academies. As Sporting Director I must make decisions, some are good and some are mistakes. I have a good team and delegate a lot to very good and loyal people. It’s very important in this business.”
Alkorta has always had a very particular outlook on football at Lezama. Along with preparing young players for the first team, the former defender believes that building a winning mentality is also crucial and prioritizes quality over other details.
“I love winning, also training, but winning as much as possible. The formation of players for the first team is the priority. Every year we are going to need to have a strong Lezama. We want talent that we can shape. We don’t look at the age, height, measures, or what day they were born. We look at football players.”
Since taking over as Sporting Director, Alkorta has introduced several changes to Lezama and is constantly looking for ways to improve the academy. One idea being discussed is having Basconia train in the mornings, like the first team and Bilbao Athletic, but there are challenges.
“It’s an idea like many others that we’ve put on the table while brainstorming to try to improve what we see for next year. It’s a possibility, it’s on the table, but it’s in a very undercooked phase. It was an idea that arose from a member of our team and it’s being considered. It’s a complicated subject because the first thing we want is for the boys to continue with their studies. We don’t want there to be any problem for them. You have to think about that first and above all else.”
Throughout the quarantine the club has kept close contact with all players, including the younger ones from the academy. Coaches have played a major role in ensuring that training at home is taking place daily.
“Each coach is in contact with the boys. The players are following training plans at home and the follow-up with coaches has been perfect. It’s true that in a short time the children can have physical changes depending on how old they are, but we have detailed reports by the coaches. We have all the personal evaluations and we get an idea of what can happen from here to next year.”
While the professional players are in a better position to stay in shape at home, the fact that children are constantly growing makes it harder to gauge the younger players. Still, Alkorta ensures that the club is doing everything possible to protect everyone at Lezama with the understanding that the remainder of the season could be canceled.
“There’s always a risk and a chance that something can go wrong because a lot can change in three months, but we have very good people working and analyzing the reports with great detail. It’s a small mishap, but we aren’t too concerned. They have all continued training because we have no news about what will happen. We know there are meetings, but nothing concrete. If we don’t know what will happen with the first team, and there are dates coming out every day, we don’t now anything for Bilbao Athletic and Basconia.”
Alkorta has been busy throughout the football stoppage, constantly making plans for next year. The current season is still isn limbo but the Sporting Director is committed to ensuring that the teams will be in the best position possible whenever football does return.