Mikel San José “I Thought I Was Going To Retire At Athletic”
Mikel San José’s time with Athletic ended over the summer. After 11 years at San Mamés, and several more at Lezama, the veteran midfielder left the club on an expiring contract. On Monday the 31-year-old found a new home. San José officially signed with Birmingham City where he will play under former Athletic defender Aitor Karanka.
“I had offers to stay in La Liga, but right now for me and my family it was a very good option to come to England,” San José told Birmingham Television. “I think it will be very good for us.” Clubs such as Eibar were heavily linked with interest in San José, though he wanted to leave Spain to avoid having to play against Athletic.
In his 11 seasons with Athletic, San José made 397 appearances and scored 37 goals. A lifelong Zurigorri supporter, he always assumed that he would spend his entire career in Bilbao.
“I thought I was going to retire at Athletic. I was there for so many years that I thought it would be forever, but things change. It was very difficult to leave. It’s very hard after eleven years with Athletic. It’s my home. I was with the first team for eleven years and before that in the lower levels. It’s very emotional, but things are like that.”
Despite not being able to earn a new contract with Athletic, San José explained that he still feels like he has a lot of football left to play. Joining Birmingham is a new and thrilling challenge.
“After leaving Athletic I thought that I’m still young and that I have years left to play football. For that reason I accepted this challenge. I’m very happy, very excited, and I want to start now. I always try to do my best and be one hundred percent in every game. I think I can bring leadership. I’m here to do my best for the team, for the club, and I hope that the fans can be happy with my performance.”
San José also confirmed that Aitor Karanka played a big part in convincing him to join Birmingham. “He knows me,” said San José. “I spoke with him and he gave me a lot of confidence to accept the offer to come to Birmingham City. I think all of Aitor’s projects have been very interesting. In addition, the team has started the league very well.”
San José aims to challenge for a starting role this season and help Birmingham earn promotion. He may no longer wear the Zurigorri shirt, but Mikel San José continues to support his beloved Athletic Club.