Andoni Iraola Says He Has “To Show Many Things” Before Coaching Athletic
Andoni Iraola has turned heads since starting his coaching career. In his first season on the bench, Iraola lifted the Cyprus Super Cup with AEK Larnaca before joining Mirandés last year and overachieving expectations. The former Athletic captain was tasked with keeping the newly promoted club in the Segunda, but did so much more by nearly qualifying for the promotional playoffs and advancing all the way to the semifinals of the Copa del Rey.
When Iraola’s contract with Mirandés expired, a number of clubs immediately showed interest in hiring the 38-year-old. Leganés and Mallorca were both linked with Iraola who eventually signed a one-year contract to manage Rayo Vallecano for the upcoming campaign.
“The Rayo project makes me excited,” Iraola said on Fuera de Juego Monday night. “The atmosphere in Vallecas is always beautiful and now it’s my turn to be on the inside. Let’s hope that we measure up. It’s an exciting and demanding opportunity and challenge. I come happy and eager.”
Naturally, Iraola’s early success as a manager has many Athletic fans hopeful that he may soon return to the club. It may only be a matter of time, but Iraola maintains that he isn’t ready at this point.
“I feel like a one club man. It’s true that officially I’m not, but my club has always been and will always be Athletic. I appreciate the support shown by the fans of Athletic, who have supported me for many years, but I have to do my career. I have just started and I always say that I still have to earn a lot of merit and I have to prove things (before coaching Athletic).”
The Athletic legend always has a close eye on his former club and believes that the team is in good hands despite recent departures. “Athletic have footballers with a lot of experience and weight like Raúl García and Iñigo Martínez,” he noted. “There are players, like Muniain and Williams, who know how to lead that dressing room. Athletic isn’t an inexperienced team in that sense.”
Gaizka Garitano is on the hot seat heading into the 2020/2021 season. The Lions have fallen just short of Europe twice under Garitano and failing to secure a top seven finish this year could see him on the way out. If that were to happen, Andoni Iraola would likely be the club’s top choice to take over as a manager.