Iago Herrerín “I Need To Leave Because I’m Not Happy”
The time has come for Iago Herrerín to say goodbye to Athletic. Having made 119 appearances over seven seasons, Herrerín accomplished his childhood dream of playing for Athletic, but it hasn’t gone the way he expected. For the past few years the 32-year-old has been severely mistreated by fans to the point where he can no longer enjoy playing for the club he’s loved since he was little.
“Well…it’s the world we live in,” Herrerín told Robert Basic of El Correo when asked about the constant negativity on social media. “Insults and threats are the order of the day. It’s difficult when people from your own city and your own fans attack you, insult you, and belittle you. It doesn’t matter if I play well or badly. If one player or another makes a mistake, the blame is always on me. I have had very ugly things said to me.”
The worst moment for Herrerín came after Athletic eliminated Barcelona from the Copa del Rey. Hours later fans were verbally abusing the goalkeeper on the streets and a video emerged showing Herrerín arguing with them.
“I had to face people after beating Barcelona. Everyone was supposed to be happy and content. A thousand lies were told, like saying they were minors but we’re talking about people who were 25 years old. I exploded. I will never hit anyone, but I just wanted to get in his face. When everything happened, those kids told me that they did it to be funny. It hurt me really bad. I went home crying and angry with myself. I want to close this year and think about the future.”
Fortunately, the video showed how badly the fans were yelling at Herrerín before he finally had enough. A person can only take so much abuse.
“When the video of what happened to me after Barcelona came out I was very nervous, sad, and angry. But that video came in handy. People saw it and said ‘he had to burst’. Why did a person, an Athletic player, have to go through that after beating Barcelona? I don’t understand it. There are really stupid people on the internet and I try to ignore it as much as I can.”
Despite all the attacks on social media, Herrerín has never considered deleting his accounts. To him, doing so would be giving in to the critics.
“No, I’ve never considered deleting my social media accounts because I don’t think that I have to disappear. I don’t have to change my way of life, my way of being. I’m not going to do it for anyone. I’m the first to criticize myself and accept constructive criticism, but I don’t want to disappear because it would be cowardly.”
When asked about his future with Athletic, whether or not he wants to leave the club, Herrerín gave an honest honest. “Yes, I’ve already discussed it with the club,” he said. “We also talked about it before the confinement.” Herrerín admits that he isn’t happy and has asked to leave.
“We are in this world to be happy, which is more important than playing or not playing. I have been here without playing and I have been happy because my work was being recognized. I can’t be happy now. I need to leave because I’m not happy. I want to emphasize one thing: it’s not because I’m not playing. Logically, everyone wants to play and so do I, but to play I have to prove myself and that’s up to me. It’s because of how I have been treated so many times.”
In the past, not playing regular minutes has been difficult for Herrerín. However, he says that it’s not an issue anymore and that wanting to leave is mostly because of the terrible treatment he’s received.
“A lot of it is because of the fans. The majority support me, but the bad guys always make more noise than the good guys. For a while just playing a game has been hard for me, an impossible mission. I know that I can’t concede a goal and even when I don’t there are still insults. The season has been long for me. When you suffer, when you don’t enjoy things and come home with discomfort, there’s something not right in your head.”
Herrerín has always been an Athletic supporter, but he can’t put his family through negativity any longer.
“I am the first who would like to be here for as many years as it takes because Athletic is my team, the place that I have always wanted to be. But the time has come to put happiness first, especially my family and my partner. I can bear it, but watching them suffer…it’s complicated.”
Having already spoken with the club, it’s very likely that Herrerín will depart this summer. He claims that Athletic are willing to do whatever possible to help him leave even though they would prefer for him to continue.
“The club knows what I want. We spoke before the confinement. They told me that there wasn’t going to be any problem and that we would see the best way out for me. They count on me, they’ve told me that from the first minute, even if I’m not playing. They feel that I have a character and a way of being that helps in the locker room. I told them I wish that I could stay, but my heart says one thing and my head says another. The best thing for me and the club is to find a way out.”
Herrerín is currently under contract for one more year and has a high release clause. The goalkeeper hinted that he and the club could agree to terminate his deal, but that it isn’t up to him.
“I don’t think anyone is going to pay €50 million for me. Athletic has given me a lot and I have also given a lot to Athletic. I don’t want to take money from the club that I don’t deserve. In the end, these are numbers between clubs and it’s a fight that I won’t be in. I want the best for myself and Athletic.”
In light of the treatment he’s received from the fans, Herrerín was quick to point out that he’s always had the support of the club. In fact, Athletic have played a significant role in helping Herrerín report those who has assaulted him.
“Largely, yes I have felt supported by the club. The club has helped me and supported me after the insults. The club has been the first to give me the opportunity to report things and search for those who are guilty. Athletic has done everything for me, but I repeat it’s necessary. All I ask is that if we are a family we don’t attack each other. The club has always defended me.”
Leaving Athletic will be difficult. It’s always been Herrerín’s dream to wear the Zurigorri shirt, but he’s also going to miss his teammates. They don’t want him to leave, but understand his decision.
“My teammates get it. They don’t want me to go, but they respect it. I have a close relationship with Raúl, Aduriz…Well, with everyone, but the veterans are the ones who can advise you the most in exceptional situations. I’ve been told that life to be enjoyed. I have their support in this decision, although they don’t want me to leave the group.”
Herrerín’s teammates have been a constant source of support. In the worse times they have made life better, more enjoyable, but everyone has a limit of how much abuse they can sustain.
“I’ve felt a lot of anxiety. I have had to work with a professional to try to handle it in the best possible way. I’ve done it well, but you feel like there comes a time when you can’t take it anymore. My head can’t take it anymore. Luckily I have trained well and I’m at ease. My teammates have helped me to be very happy. We’re a close group. When I’m doing badly at home and go to Lezama it takes it all away.”
When asked if this will be the end, Herrerín shared that he doesn’t know what the future holds. Perhaps he could return some day, but he will always support his boyhood club.
“I can’t say. It’s goodbye, but I can’t say it’s definitive because we’re talking about the club of my life. It’s my family, my shield. I’ve defended this shield since I was little. I’ve been Athletic since before I kicked a ball. I will never say that it’s a definitive goodbye because football takes many turns. Wherever I am, Athletic will always have me and my support.”
For now, Herrerín wants to get away from football but it’s hard to do when he’s looking to join another club. “I want to disconnect, but when looking for a way out the head doesn’t stop thinking,” he said. “I don’t know where I’m going to go. I have to study everything. I want to solve it as soon as possible and the club will also have to protect itself.”
Yet again, Herrerín ensured that not having regular minutes isn’t the reason for his desire to leave. It would have been a big issue in the past, but that isn’t the case for him anymore.
“Right now, the not playing is in the background. Playing more or less depends on me, but at the moment the main thing is to see tranquility and happiness. It’s what I need, to work in a place where I don’t have the pressure that they have put one me. Unai isn’t the reason. If this were a few years ago I could possibly say not playing is 80 or 90 percent the reason, but not now.”
Still, not playing is difficult for any footballer. Herrerín hasn’t enjoyed sitting on the bench, although he’s always put the team first.
“It’s hard not to play. You train well and then don’t compete, but I’ve always said that I support my teammate and the team. I train to be available to the coach and try to do when I do play. It’s difficult for a goalkeeper to go six months without competing, but I didn’t feel bad when I went out.”
Looking at the season which just ended over the weekend, Simón explained that losing his starting role to Unai Simón was difficult, but he understood. Ultimately, Simón has been committed to helping the team in any way possible.
“It’s been a difficult season. Luckily I played last year, but overnight I stopped playing and Unai (Simón) did well. I was playing the Cup and suffered an unfortunate expulsion. I thought that I would still play the semifinal, but I didn’t. These are decisions for the coach. I have always said that the team is what’s important and that I will help in any way that I can whether it’s carrying a bottle to Unai, carrying towels, or cheering. The coach has always thanked me.”
Herrerín also discussed the pandemic which put the season on hold for several months. The campaign essentially took an entire year to complete and players are exhausted.
“After the loss to Leganés which meant that we were out of the race for Europe many things came to mind. It’s been a tough year in sports, especially because of the pandemic. It’s a year to forget, personally as well. I think it’s been the worst year since I started playing in the Primera. We started in July 2019 and ended in July 2020. Mentally we need to disconnect.”
The 32-year-old was confident that Athletic would be able to qualify for Europe once the season returned. Unfortunately, things went wrong in the final games which saw the team finish 11th in the table.
“We had a beautiful and ambitious goal. After the confinement was over we decided to fight for Europe and we were doing well. If we had played eleven against eleven against Leganés we would have won. We had a player sent off early (against Leganés) and had to row against the current the rest of the game. The burden of the last nine games was felt.”
In closing, Herrerín is excited about having some time off this summer. “I’m looking forward to disconnecting a bit,” he said. “In the last year and a half I’ve felt judged. Before I was playing in Europe, I had the numbers, but now I’m being judged for everything. Insults, threats, contempt…I don’t have to accept it, not here not anywhere.” Athletic has always been a family, but for Iago Herrerín that hasn’t been the case recently.