Iago Herrerín “I Have Always Given Everything For This Team”
Football is closer than ever to finally returning. On Monday teams were allowed to begin training in small groups and La Liga aims to resume matches by 12 June. Regardless of what happens, Iago Herrerín could be living his final months as an Athletic player. The 32-year-old goalkeeper has been outspoken about his frustrations with limited minutes and has even revealed that there was interest from a number of clubs before the stoppage.
“Well, I was able to go to a few teams, but the truth is that the club had another thought and that’s what they told me,” Herrerín told Javier Beltran of AS during an interview. The goalkeeper was asked about the possibility of leaving on loan and explained that the club rejected the option. “You have to accept it. I have a contract here so I have to work hard to try to play.”
Although Herrerín isn’t happy with his current situation, it doesn’t mean that he’s certain to leave Athletic at the end of the season. The goalkeeper shared that he’s only focused on the last remaining games and will wait to discuss his future with the club once the campaign is over.
“The time we have been confined at home gives you time to think hard, to talk on the phone with people who look out for your good and not only tell you the things you want to hear, but the things you don’t want to hear, and you value everything. I’m at the club I want to be. Athletic is my home, it’s been my team since childhood. I have done things well, I have done things badly, I will have good games, I will have bad games, but I have always given everything for this team, which is what I maintain, and nobody can blame me otherwise. I have never looked down on this club or ever said anything wrong. We have 11 games left and we will try to finish 5th or 6th or get into Europe, and then we will meet and we will see what is the best thing for the club, for me, and for the team.”
Herrerín may not be playing much be he has the full support of Gaizka Garitano who doesn’t want the goalkeeper to leave. The future is very much up in the air.
“I haven’t spoken to anyone. Logically we had spoken before they kicked us up and everything has been postponed until later. The coach gives me all the confidence in the world, the club too, but there are that you also demand from the club which have nothing to do with playing or not playing. This is my club, but a thousand things can happen in football that you don’t know. The most important thing now is to play the remaining games and finish in the best possible way.”
When asked if he will have a better chance of earning more minutes with the season restarting, Herrerín responded that nothing has changed. He’s well aware of how well Unai Simón has played and doesn’t see any reason why that would change.
“No, everything is very clear. I’m not blind. Unai is having a spectacular season. The coach trusts Unai and I, logically, have to train hard for what may happen, but I can’t say that I will start from scratch in these eleven games because I know that’s not real. I do know myself and I won’t relax. Unai isn’t relaxing either and if I have to play, great, I will give everything that I can.”
Regardless of what happens Herrerín is committed to doing everything that he can to help the team. Some fans have harshly criticized the veteran but he prefers to focus on those who continue to support him.
“Everyone has their own tastes. I understand that some like one goalkeeper and other don’t. I receive a lot of criticism, but that’s football. There have been seasons that have gone well for me and now there are times when things have gone wrong. It wasn’t so good before and it’s not so bad now or anything like that. I’ve always had people who support me at San Mamés and that’s what I’m focused on. I can’t only think about the bad.”
Herrerín’s career at San Mamés has, unfortunately, been characterized more by errors than by big saves. His unconventional way of playing the position has left many fans frustrated, but Herrerín says learning to deal with mistakes is part of football.
“In the end, all of the evolutions of football go against the goalkeeper: in a penalty you cannot go over the line, the ball is getting lighter and produces more difficult shots, crosses can no longer be caught with the hands, and the super slow cameras now look at a thousand positions when you make a mistake. I’ve been quite calm with mistakes for a long time. In the end, there’s no goalkeeper who doesn’t make mistakes and I have learned to live with them, knowing that everyone makes them.”
The last major mistake came in Athletic’s Copa del Rey match against Tenerife. “It was just another error,” says Herrerín. “I still don’t think that was a red card. At that time I wasn’t happy, it was a hard moment, but I know how to overcome all of that. I have to go back to train, tighten up, and demonstrate that I can be there when I’m needed.”
Because of the red card Herrerín was dropped as the team’s Cup goalkeeper in favor of Unai Simón. Losing his place, and minutes, was hard to accept.
“Well it was difficult, but the coach is the one who decides. On the part of some fans, advertising was already being made so that I wouldn’t play. You try to avoid it, but you see everything. We discussed it with the coach, who is the one who decides, and things are as they are. When I’ve played I haven’t asked for explanations and I don’t when I’m not playing either. We enjoyed advancing to the finals.”
Even though Athletic reached the Cup finals it won’t be played this season. The match has been postponed until fans can safely attend and Herrerín is eagerly looking forward to being able to share it with everyone.
“We don’t know anything. I don’t want to think about what is going to happen next season because first I want to finish this one and then we will see what has to come. The important thing is that everything that is happening to us now normalizes and we can live the final to win it and enjoy it all together.”
Herrerín and defender Unai Núñez have both stated that they will do something exciting to celebrate if Athletic wins the Cup, possibly dyeing their hair blonde. “Yes, well, we will do something,” says Herrerín. “It’s no longer insane to get a tattoo, but there will be no problem. We get along very well and we will have to do something if we win the Cup.”
Losing his place to Simón wasn’t easy and Herrerín is determined to help the team in any way that he can. Herrerín sees a lot of himself in Simón, but says the 22-year-old is different to former teammate Kepa Arrizabalaga.
“We are both very competitive and we have a strong character, but we know how to be calm. I see myself in him at times. I love training with him because he trains very well and strong. He’s always joyful, which helps you in many moments. They (Simón and Arrizabalaga) are different. I was amazed with Kepa and his way of training. Kepa is more serious, but he’s also very competitive like Ezkieta or Remiro. Each one has their own way of being, but I do see myself reflected more with Unai Simón.”
Herrerín was also asked about Bilbao Athletic goalkeeper Jokin Ezkieta and Hodei Oleaga who spent this season on loan with Melilla. Ezkieta could have a bright future ahead with Athletic.
“I’ve had more contact with Jokin. We’ve been together all season and I’ve trained with him. He has a lot of potential. He’s been at the lower levels of Barcelona and that says something. He’s had a good season in Segunda B with Bilbao Athletic and hopefully they will go up to Segunda in the playoffs. I haven’t spent much time with Hodei, only in the summer preseason. Where you learn the most is playing matches which is what he looked for on loan and what he has achieved.”
It’s been over a week since Athletic finally returned to training after nearly two months of quarantine. Herrerín admitted that everyone returned in better shape than they expected, but being back on the field has still be a challenge.
“I think we have all been a little surprised at the work be did at home and what they sent us. It’s true that training outdoors is different and in the first sessions back we felt more tired. For the goalkeepers, each one has trained in his own field, but the workouts are quite hard. Other players do more physically and are continuously running. Our training is aimed at the goal with exercises of speed, strength, and endurance and that’s where we notice the inactivity of being at home.”
La Liga may be looking to resume matches by 12 June but there’s no guarantee that football will return this season. “Well, I’m optimistic,” ensured Herrerín. “I think we’re going to be able to play. The dates are changing every day, but we are training to be able to play. It’s a bit of a strange preseason because you must regain your physical tone earlier than normal.”
Herrerín’s future at Athletic depends on many things, including the financial impact of the football stoppage. In the end, the goalkeeper believes that money will still be spent by clubs, just not as much.
“It’s always the same subject with transfers, the amount of money that moves. Of course, it’s going to have to be downgraded because of everything that has happened, but there will be signings and players who want to find new things.”
Herrerín still has one year left on his contract with Athletic and the club prefers for him to play out his deal. Doing so would require him to continue as the backup to Unai Simón, but with the Copa del Rey final postponed until next season Iago Herrerín may want to finish his career in Bilbao with the chance to lift a trophy.