Joaquín Caparrós “I Want Athletic To Have Another Cup Title To Put In The Trophy Case”
Throughout history there have been many legendary managers at Athletic and, although he never won a title, Joaquín Caparrós is one of the most beloved to ever sit on the bench at San Mamés. Caparrós coached Athletic from 2007 until 2011, amassing 187 games, and still has a very good relationship with the club and city of Bilbao.
“I still have contact with Athletic, in this life you have to be grateful,” Caparrós said during an interview with Telebilbao. “My family has been shown love in Bilbao and Bizkaia. I’m proud to have belonged to a very special club like Athletic.”
Even though it’s been nearly a decade since he coached Athletic, Caparrós revealed that he’s still a Socio. His time in Bilbao made an impact that will be never be forgotten.
“I’m still a Socio of Athletic and always will be. I have always said that I’m indebted to Athletic, to the fans, to Bizkaia, because of the way they welcomed me. There was empathy from all sides and it was a luxury to be there. At home my family continually follows Athletic and I talk a lot with many who are there.”
Caparrós would have continued as manager past 2011 had president Fernando García Macua won the election. Instead, Josu Urrutia became president and replaced Caparrós with Marcelo Bielsa who continue the team’s success for two years.
“There is no doubt that we would have stayed, but Fernando and his Board went to the elections and lost. The team has been formed, we were well on track, and had just finished a very good season. Marcelo had a spectacular season. The numbers show it and we all enjoyed that team. That doesn’t mean, to be honest, that I wouldn’t have liked to continue, but the cycle was over.”
Looking back, Caparrós recognizes just how talented the team was when he was replaced. For four years Caparrós had been building the squad and says that the support of the fans always played a major role in the club’s success.
“It was a team with a lot of potential. Muniain, Iturraspe, Susaeta, Llorente, and Javi (Martinez) were relatively young and there was Iraola and Gurpegui. It was a mix and balance of experience and footballers who were hungry to be someone at Athletic, and they have been. We had talked about reinforcing and strengthening the team because we were ambitious. The fans are demanding, they are wise, and they push you. That keeps you, the coaching staff and footballers, from relaxing.”
When asked about possibly returning Caparrós admitted that he would be open to it. “Who wouldn’t like to return to Athletic,” he immediately responded. “Everyone would say yes, but I think the team is in good hands right now.”
Because of his connections at the club, Caparrós sees that Lezama is continuing to produce top players for the first team. He mentioned that as it coach it was always a relief to know that qualify footballers were constantly being developed.
“I speak a lot with Manolo Delgado and I see that Lezama is special. At Athletic the most important figure isn’t the coach, it’s the scouts and the people working at Lezama. When the coach looks down and sees so many very talented boys coming, he can rest easy. The trainers and scouts have that third eye. That is special. Athletic is on a very good track, but we would all like to return.”
As Athletic look forward to the eventual Copa del Rey final against Real Sociedad, Caparrós didn’t hide his desire to see the Lions win the title. Whenever the match takes place the former manager will cheer on Athletic.
“My feeling and my wish would be like all other fans, for our Athletic to win the final and get that title, but I’m aware that it will be a very open game. La Real are having a very good season and they have a magnificent team. They play enjoyable football, but my desire is clear. I want Athletic to have another Cup title to put in the trophy case.”
Caparrós did have an opportunity to bring the 25th Cup title to San Mamés in 2009, but fell 4-1 to Barcelona in the final. Gaizka Toquero scored the opening goal after just eight minutes, but it wasn’t enough.
“The opening goal tasted like glory for us, but collided with Pep’s Barcelona that I think was one of the best teams in the world. The month before the final there was a special feeling in the city. When you were on the streets people would come up to you to tell you that it had been so many years without a final. They spoke to you with that feeling of hope.”
Caparrós currently serves as the manager for the Armenia National Team, but is always open to the possibility of returning to Athletic. During his four years at San Mamés Joaquín Caparrós led Athletic to European qualification twice and a 6th-place finish in the La Liga table in his final season.