Ibai Gómez “I Trust Myself And My Qualities”
Since the season resumed a few weeks ago Ibai Gómez has barely seen the field. The 34-year-old has played just a handful of minutes and doesn’t seem to be a major part of Gaizka Garitano’s plans. Speaking with Iñaki Ugalde of Mundo Deportivo, Gómez admitted that things have been difficult, but for now he’s only focused on doing what he can to help the team qualify for Europe.
“I’m not participating as much as expected nor as much as any player likes, but right now, even more so if possible, we must put the collective over the personal. We are close to a great goal and that is the only thing we have to think about now. I’m sure that if we win both games we’re going to get into Europe. I’m convinced and I see the team capable of pulling out wins in both games.”
Athletic currently trail Real Sociedad by just three points with two games left to play. When asked about the competition for seventh place, Gómez responded that the Lions need to just focus on their matches.
“We already saw on Monday that La Real, who came from negative dynamics, beat Villarreal who came from positive dynamics. The best thing is to think about what we have to do, which is winning both games, and from there we will have options to qualify for Europe.”
The Basques will have a great chance to add three points on Thursday night when Leganés visit San Mamés before traveling to Granada on the last day of the season. Athletic will be favored in both, though Gómez doesn’t see it that way.
“Our games are going to be complicated. I was watching Granada against Madrid and they played a very good second half. I liked what I’ve seen in the four games of theirs that I’ve watched after the confinement. Leganés is a team close to safety that will play with a 5-4-1 waiting for their chances from set pieces. They’ve played like that for the last three games and it’s worked for them. We have to do our job which is winning these two games ahead.”
Athletic could have had more points if not for controversial VAR decisions in losses to Real Madrid and Sevilla. Gómez refused to talk about the refereeing and said that he personally doesn’t think there’s any conspiracy.
“I’ve never been able to talk about that kind of controversy. Refereeing is very difficult, but now the referees have an aid which sees many things and perhaps they see different things. I don’t want to think that they are strange things going on. I want to keep thinking that this is all pretty clean.”
There’s no denying that Athletic have been in excellent form since the restart. Gómez highlighted that the players trained hard during the break and even though he’s not really seeing minutes, the team’s success is the most important thing right now.
“We worked very hard and it’s been shown because the team’s return has been very good. What’s more, 11 or 12 players are participating every three days and so far they’re giving a very good level. Everyone is physically very well. To me and to all of us who aren’t participating, now more than ever, I insist that it’s time to put the collective over the personal. This is an important week and starting Monday we will talk about what needs to be talked about.”
Gómez could be on the way out of Athletic this summer, but he won’t start thinking about that until the season is over. Either way, the winger says that he’s proven what he can do on the field, especially during his time with Alavés.
“I trust myself and my qualities. A point has come where I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I was gone for two and a half years. I was in the European places with Alavés and was the top scorer and assist provider. I know what I can do if I enjoy continuity. I feel better than ever and try to contribute what I can on a daily basis. I will have time from Monday to think about this situation.”
Speaking of Alavés, Gómez hopes to see El Glorioso avoid relegation. Alavés currently sit four points above the drop zone.
“I hope and wish they are saved. It’s a difficult situation, but Monday’s draw may come in handy since they have the tiebreaker with Mallorca. Yes, they have gotten into quite a mess. Hopefully they can celebrate their Centennial in the Primera, which is what that club, the fans, and the people of Gasteiz deserve.”
Turning the attention back to Athletic, Gómez took a moment to discuss the departures of Mikel San José, Beñat, and Aritz Aduriz. All three have been key players for the past decade.
“It’s too bad that they can’t say goodbye to the fans. They deserve much more, but both are aware of the affection that fans have for them and what they mean to Athletic. Adu’s situation has been known for longer because he announced his retirement. If anyone deserved to say goodbye, especially with a title, it’s Adu. A total Athletic legend. It’s a pity that three players who have marked an era here have to leave.”
Gómez was then asked if he regrets returning to Athletic last year given the fact that he hasn’t played regular minutes. Because of his love for the club, Gómez could never regret coming back, but admits that he’s now in a time of his career where he wants to enjoy his football.
“Being at the team of your life, at your home with your people, it’s impossible to have regrets. What I like is playing football and it’s a shame not to be able to enjoy the best moments because 29 to 34 or 35 are the best years. We’ve seen Adu, Raúl, Cazorla, Joaquín…If you’re physically well then these are the best moments. Now, I insist, we must prioritize the collective over the individual.”
At the moment the only thing that matters is qualifying for Europe. Athletic hold tiebreakers over Real Sociedad and Valencia, which could be decisive. “It doesn’t matter how you get into Europe,” said Gómez. “Everyone wants it because it means more games and playing in international competition. We’re not going to change the vacation days. There’s no need to think negative because it’s totally positive.” Playing in Europe next season could give Ibai Gómez more minutes, but the club can’t afford to think too far ahead.