Unai Simón “Europe Is The Goal That We’ve Had Since The Start Of The Season”
It’s been over two months since football came to a sudden stop in Spain. The health crisis forced the country to essentially shut down, but La Liga is closer than ever to returning. Teams have been training for a few weeks now and on Monday Athletic were able to begin working in groups of 14 players. After Tuesday’s session, goalkeeper Unai Simón spoke with Athletic TV about what it’s been like being back at Lezama.
“Little by little we are picking up the pace and returning to normal because a couple of weeks ago we were training individually. We had a lot of joy to kick the ball then, but we also wanted to be with our teammates. In the first week I missed flying at Lezama, throwing myself to the ground, diving, and stopping shots.”
La Liga plans to resume matches on 11 June, but no official announcement has been made. Regardless, each team will play two games per week and Simón says that adapting to the new situation will be the most important factor in having success.
“You have to adapt to the situation because we will be playing during the week. You have to plan for the game, play it, and win, lose, or draw you have to move on. If it’s a bad game you have to forget it quickly because another one is coming and you must recover. It will require maximum effort to reach the end of the season and achieve the goal of qualifying for Europe.”
Because of the Copa del Rey final being postponed until next season Athletic must finish in the top seven to qualify for Europe. The Lions currently sit five points off of that mark, though Simón is confident that Athletic can make up the difference in the remaining eleven matches.
“Europe is the goal that we’ve had since the start of the season. We have it at hand. We have to adapt quickly to what is coming to be able to add the points we need. I was very happy with our level and the team’s performances before the pause. We were in the Cup final and achieving very good results. Then these complications arose, but we are working to recover the shape we had, or even better.”
Unfortunately, when the season returns fans will not be allowed in stadiums. Teams will have to play the remaining games behind closed doors and Simón admits that it will make things much harder for Athletic at home.
“When the league returns without fans it will be a weird feeling for goalkeepers and for everyone. We have that closer relationship with the stands and it will show a lot. We know how important Athletic’s fans are at every match at San Mamés. It will be strange and surely make things more difficult, but we must adapt. It will be demanding for every team. The ones who adapt the quickest will achieve their goals. That’s what adapting is about.”
Football has already returned in Germany where a far greater number of games have been won by teams playing away from home. In Simón’s opinion, having games behind closed doors changes everything.
“You see in the Bundesliga matches the importance of the fans and here you will also notice how important it is to play with your fans and the pressure it puts on the visiting team. The matches are a little more equal, the noise is removed. It will happen to us at home, but also when we play on the road we will have that advantage when we go to other fields.”
Unai Simón has been by far one of the best goalkeepers in all of Europe this season. The 22-year-old has secured 10 clean sheets since the start of the campaign and will have to continue his sublime form for Athletic to fight for a top seven finish. When games do resume, Athletic’s next fixture will be at San Mamés against Atlético Madrid.