Óscar De Marcos “I Feel Ready To Help The Team”
Going into his 12th season with Athletic, Óscar De Marcos hopes this year won’t resemble the last. The 31-year-old missed most of the previous campaign with an ongoing ankle injury that required surgery in December. De Marcos recovered in time to play the last stretch of games and looks forward to putting the injury behind him.
“My ankle is fine, it hasn’t hurt for a long time,” De Marcos said during a press conference on Tuesday. “My body appreciates it and my head too. That makes me go to games happier and I feel like I can help the team. Let’s hope so.”
With one year left on his contract this could very well be De Marcos’s final season with Athletic. He revealed that he’s talked with the Sporting Director and a renewal will depend on how well he plays.
“I have already spoken with Rafa. The conversation was very pleasant and everything was clear. We’re going to go little by little. Last year I was injured for a long time so we have to see how I respond. I want to be here whenever the clubs needs me and I feel ready to help the team.”
De Marcos wants to earn an extension. If he can’t contribute at a high level he accepts that it will be time to leave. Whether or not that happens, De Marcos is proud to have worn the Athletic shirt for over a decade.
“This is how we live in football and in all jobs. Everyone is judged by their performance and I don’t want anyone to give me anything. If the club doesn’t think I should continue because my performance has dropped then I have no problem. We are adults. This club has already given me 12 years of being a privileged person to be here.”
Since joining Athletic as a teenager in 2009 De Marcos has played nearly every position on the field. His versatility and experience make him a valuable asset to the manager. This year, De Marcos will also assume the responsibility of being a veteran leader on and off the field.
“It’s the role that I have to take. When I arrived I was 19 years old and I remember how well the veterans treated me, how they welcomed me. That role has to be taken by someone. This is my twelfth season. It is what is is and I will do it with great enthusiasm. I try to be responsible and help the kids. I want to enjoy helping them. This is the last year that I have left on my contract and I will go little by little because you never know if it’s the last or not.”
When asked about what he wants to pass on to the next generation, De Marcos shared the importance of going about things the right way. In his experience, that is the key to success.
“Over the years I’ve lived everything: undisputed stater, substitute, not being called up, playing in one position and then in another. The important thing is to have a good attitude, be positive, and be in the best condition to help when you get the chance.”
Having had a strong preseason there’s a chance that De Marcos could be in the starting lineup on Friday night. “I have no idea, the coach will choose,” he said about the possibility. “I always fight to get into the elven. Sometimes I’m better and sometimes I’m worse, but I always try to be prepared. That’s how it will be until I hang up my boots.”
From an overall aspect, the preseason has been strange. Several key players missed most of the summer through illness or injuries, though De Marcos ensures that the team is ready to start the season.
“It’s been atypical in all jobs. We’re expecting strange situations that change daily. We try to adapt as best as possible and try to ensure that those who have to come in a little later will join us as soon as possible. Those of us who have been through the entire preseason see it more normally.”
For now there’s still no clear idea as to when fans will be allowed back into the stadiums. Playing behind closed doors isn’t easy. De Marcos emphasized the importance of starting well, especially with the second game of the season postponed until January.
“We have to generate the illusion from the first game. The situation in society and football, that there are no people in the stadiums, disappoints us all. It’s fundamental, for the good of society, that there be no more sick people. In the league you have to start well. We won’t play the second day and that must give more importance to the Granada match to try to add three points as soon as possible. Those points will give us peace of mind for ambitious goals such as the Cup and Super Cup.”
On the other hand, the absence of fans could help younger players acclimate quicker. De Marcos admitted it helps take away the pressure, although everyone would rather have the seats full as soon as possible.
“What differentiates elite football from those beginnings is the pressure, the stadium, and the magical and hard nights. All of that, for good and bad, is what marks any player. For young players it can help them be more calm, but in a moment it’s going to return to normal. Yes, it’s good for those who are coming up to adapt, but we all want to return to normality.”
Speaking of the younger players, a few impressed De Marcos during the preseason. Seeing so many starlets called up is a source of pride. De Marcos also gave his approval for the return of Javi Martínez who is the club’s top transfer target at the moment.
“There have been no signings, it’s true. We are practically the same team, but the squad is a little more rejuvenated. In the event that Javi Martínez comes…anything to improve the quad would be good for the team. The young players are very good. Morcillo, Vencedor, and Zarraga are very good players. They have had a great preseason an they’re going to give us a lot. With as many casualties as there have been, it brings hope that we can pull players up. Seeing 17-year-old Nico (Serrano) who comes to lend us a hand is what Athletic defends and makes me excited.”
Athletic will compete in four tournaments this season, but the Copa del Rey final is the ultimate ambition. “It’s impossible to forget,” said De Marcos. “When you think of the year ahead it’s always in your mind. Right now it’s on 4 April and we can’t be thinking about that, but your head always goes there.”
Lastly, De Marcos touched on the now infamous picture of several Athletic players on vacation in Ibiza. The picture was criticized when six players tested positive for COVID-19 weeks later.
“Everyone on vacation can do what they want. Once you expose yourself there’s going to be criticism. Some players tested positive for a very bad disease and there are people in this locker room with relatives who have suffered badly. You have to be careful.”
Athletic kick off the La Liga season on Friday night with a trip to Granada. The Lions will then have a two week break until the following fixture, making the opening game vitally important. Taking all three points would be a great start to build momentum and confidence ahead of what will be a difficult year.