Javier Clemente Calls The Basque Cup Final “The Match Of The Century”
Javier Clemente is always ready to give his opinion on anything relating to Athletic. The former manager, who coached the team to the last Copa del Rey title in 1984, has often had some controversial thoughts on various topics but has never been a fan of talking about rumors.
“I’m a bit harsh with the media because I think there’s been too much attention given to speculations,” Clemente told Radio Euskadi when asked about his thoughts on the Copa del Rey ultimatum. “Now there are ramblings of the clubs, La Liga, Federation, UEFA, FIFA…I won’t waste my time until something is confirmed.
Much has been made about the fact that La Liga is still trying to resume play while Ligue 1 has canceled the remainder of the season. To Clemente, it’s impossible to compare two different countries.
“The French league is special. The clubs rule more than the Federation and it has a very clear champions in PSG. It doesn’t have the same significance. In Spain everything is discussed. Promotions, the league, Europe, relegations. La Real wants it to end because they’re in the Champions League, but Atlético and others don’t. It’s impossible to get votes here unanimously. We are a protesting country.”
If the season does return players will be required to be routinely tested for Covid-19 which many say isn’t fair to the citizens who are more in need. On the other hand, Clemente points out that the economy needs football.
“What the players say is fine with me, that they want the tests to be done for those who are in hospitals and those who them more. It’s logical. Another point of debate is the money that moves football. It’s much more important than many companies. There are many people living indirectly from football.”
In the end, Clemente is convinced that the clubs will do whatever it takes to complete the season as not doing so would result in significant revenue loss.
“The clubs are doing everything possible to make the football come back. There’s €700 or €800 million on the line in these remaining matches. The clubs are scared and in Bilbao we are a little fearful too. There’s excess from recent player sales, but from an operating level we’re going to have losses.”
As far as the Cup final is concerned, Clemente agrees with the prevailing opinion that it should be played with the fans. However, he also stressed that it may not be possible and that it won’t bother him if it’s held behind closed doors.
“I wouldn’t want to play the final behind closed doors but there may be no other choice. I would like it to be as soon as possible and with an audience, but it’s impossible. The date doesn’t worry me. When it’s played I will have a good time, but it’s complicated and it may be next year.”
The issue of European qualification is the biggest factor for Clemente. As a coach who has worked for both clubs, Clemente also shared his opinion that this Cup final will be one of the biggest games in history.
“The final shouldn’t be played behind closed doors unless there’s no other way to see who is going to the Europe. It will be a spectacular final, the most beautiful game of the year, and it’s a derby between La Real and us (Athletic). For me it’s the match of the century. I will never have the opportunity to see another final between the two. I love derbies, they haven’t lost strength. I’m proud to have trained both sides.”
If the Cup final can’t be played with fans then Clemente fully supports the possibility of moving the game to Mendizorrotza. Traveling all the way to Seville just doesn’t make sense without fans.
“It should be moved to Mendizorrotza just for the comfort of the teams. Why go to Seville with that heat if there won’t be an audience? If that’s the case we should stay at home. It’s not a bad idea to double the match either with one leg in San Mamés and the other in Anoeta. With two games the fans would have more fun.”
Comparing the two clubs, Clemente says that Real Sociedad would have been favorites had the final went ahead as originally planned. The former manager admits he was frustrated with Athletic’s run in the tournament but also believes they will be the ones to lift the trophy.
“La Real have had a better football year. They’ve played better and we’re having a good season. We’ve had a decent season. Reaching the final was good but the Cup games were bad because Athletic needed miracles against Segunda sides and had a hard time in Granada until the last minute. We reached the final very thirsty. Three more meters in the desert and we would’ve died, but sometimes football is like that. We have a lot of room for improvement. We’re better than we’ve been doing. For La Real, improving is difficult. The final has nothing to do with what’s happened in the league. It’s special and I don’t expect Athletic to lose the final.”
Regardless of when the Cup final takes place, Clemente knows it will be massive. “It will be the most watched game on television in the whole Basque Country,” he says. The two sides have never met in the Copa del Rey final, making this arguably the biggest game in the history of the rivalry.