Aitor Elizegi “I Hope We All Play On Equal Terms”
Football clubs are already feeling the effects of the pandemic that brought the season to a halt, but the real impact won’t be understood for quite some time. Experts have predicted a transfer window with little money being spent as clubs have suffered significant revenue loss. However, it’s impossible to forecast what will actually follow in the wake of the health crisis.
“We are making the calculations,” Athletic president Aitor Elizegi told Cadena Ser. “We must add to the provision made to work outside Europe with the decrease in sponsorships, in social contributions, and as soon as the league specifies we will know the decrease in television income. It could be between €30-40 million in losses, I speak of the total, to the provision made at the beginning of the season to cover the budget.”
Without playing in Europe the club’s wage bill is too high. The Lions hope to finish in the top seven this season, but it will be challenging.
“It’s true that the calendar is complex. If Athletic doesn’t play in Europe the same situation would be repeated as this season and the club is already working on a provision. The provision also has a limit and will at some point stop covering those extraordinary contingencies which are created by the team not qualifying for Europe.”
The president was asked about potential transfers in the upcoming window, to which he gave an interesting answer. As always, Lezama will be the great hope.
“We aren’t looking to make signings. The first thing we’re looking for is Lezama, the second thing we’re looking for is the loans to bear fruit, and the third thing we look for is players who want to be at Athletic, who facilitate that move and want to be close to us.”
The retirement of Aritz Aduriz and likely departures of Mikel San José and Beñat will lighten the wage bill slightly. Elizegi refused to say whether or not San José or Beñat would be offered renewals, but hopes they will finish the season with the team.
“From the date their contracts expire there are 19 more days remaining for the season. We would like for them to continue with us in this marathon where there are eleven games left and I doubt that we wouldn’t miss these two players.”
On the other hand, Elizegi maintains that Unai Núñez is a key part of the team. The defender has yet to agree to a renewal despite being given more chances before the stoppage. “He’s a proven player and has a contract until 2023,” said the president. “Gaizka has counted on him and there would be no reason why he shouldn’t continue counting on him for the next few seasons.”
Speaking of Garitano, Elizegi once again backed the manager who has had the support of the club since day one. “He not only orders the first team, he orders the work that Lezama needs to continue doing and club sports.” Garitano recently signed a renewal through next season.
On Sunday the Basques will return to action in a match against Atlético Madrid at San Mamés. Unfortunately, not having fans in the stands will be a great loss.
“It will be two great clubs on the pitch, but in the stands the best fans will not be able to attend the game. It’s difficult to do something that simulate 40,000 fans, very difficult. I hope we all play on equal terms.”
The scheduled for the next four league games has already been announced with some teams having more rest than others in already condensed calendar. Elizegi wants to see more equality given the circumstances.
“There are four teams that play four games in ten days. Betis will arrive in Bilbao with 48 more hours of rest than us and the time between the games against Eibar and Atlético is only 67 hours. I don’t think it’s good to face four matches of this depth in this short period of time. I hope that the efforts are shared and that we will all play on equal footing.”
Athletic will have the remaining 11 games to fight for the goal of qualifying for Europe. The Zurigorri must finish in the top 7 to earn a place in the Europa League next season and currently trail Valencia by 5 points. After three months without football no one knows what to expects, but reaching Europe will be a massive challenge.