Iñigo Martínez “When you start badly the most important thing is to turn it around”
Since making the controversial move to Athletic in 2018, Iñigo Martínez has become one of the leaders at San Mamés. The former Real Sociedad captain is an example both on and off the field. Following the loss to Granada two weeks ago a number of playing spoke out about the negativity from fans and Martínez joined the group during Tuesday’s press conference.
“I have never liked those criticisms. After playing just one game everything is hot. The image in Granada wasn’t good at all, but you have to be a little more on our side and see that it was the first game. There were players who didn’t have a full preseason, myself included.”
Martínez explained that the constant criticism doesn’t help the players. “Little by little we will find ourselves better, physically and collectively,” he said. “We must give a vote of confidence because every year Athletic always fights for something. To start with those issues towards the players now is not good for us or the fans.”
Winning 2-1 at Ipurua over the weekend went a long way towards helping get back on track. The defender said that the team has to overcome the negativity and take the season one game at a time.
“We’re going little by little and we’re confident after winning the last game. This has just begun, but I blindly trust this team and believe there is potential to fight for things. We must get away from those criticisms and make ourselves strong in the locker room. It’s the best we know how to do.”
Martínez made it clear that Athletic went into Ipurua with a purpose. The performance against Eibar has the team feeling much better ahead of an important stretch of games.
“When you start badly the most important thing is to turn it around. The win against Eibar was important for us and for the fans. Everything is seen in a different lift after the win. The team was united and went out to win from the first minute. We knew how to endure the bad moments that any team usually has on that field of play. The feelings were very good during the game. This is the way.”
Normally partnered with Yeray, Martínez played alongside Unai Núñez against Eibar. The 23-year-old recently asked to leave on loan and Martínez was quick to defend his teammate that has worked hard despite his situation.
“Unai always gives one hundred percent and that’s what matters to us. He faced Sunday’s game as he should, very competitive and reading the press. He played a great game. The important thing is that everyone contributes to the team. Competition is good for Athletic.”
The Lions have played two games on the road to start the season but return to San Mamés on Thursday. Martínez called on the fans to be united with the team because winning at home is vitally important at this point.
“Everything is a bit strange for everyone. The best thing is to go step by step. We aren’t one hundred percent and we won’t be next week. This will last a while and others are seeing it the same way. We must be united, the fans and the players. Now we will play at home and we’re focused on doing our best.”
Unfortunately, fans still aren’t allowed in stadiums amid the ongoing health concerns. Playing in an empty San Mamés isn’t the same, but Martínez warns that Cadíz will look to take advantage.
“We miss our fans and we will continue to do so for a while. Not having the fans is a sadness. When I was a rival I knew what it was like to be there on the pitch. It’s not something you get used to. Cadíz will come to San Mamés with great enthusiasm, wanting to stay another year in the Primera.”
Aside from the upcoming game, Athletic could also look to make a move before the transfer window closes on 5 October. The club has been linked with Alex Berenguer and Javi Martínez, both of which would be welcomed by the team. However, Martínez maintains that the players coming through Lezama are still the most important reinforcements.
“Anyone who comes will always be well received, but we are in a complicated situation. We have to get players from Lezama. I was a cantera player and as a kid what I wanted most was to show that I was a first class player. These kids have to do the same. We have a great squad and we’re are more than teammates, we’re friends. It’s easy to come up and be supported by the players that are already here, but they have to demonstrate.”
Martínez was one of the players that missed a large portion of the preseason, which has been a trend since he signed with Athletic. “I should take a look at the subject and study it well,” he said in regards to picking up muscle injuries in the summer. “It’s not normal for the deal with it year after year, it’s not good for me. I don’t like it and don’t want to miss another preseason.”
The defender was also asked about his chances of being called up to Spain National Team for the upcoming European Championship. “The train passes quickly,” he said. “The main thing is to be one hundred percent here and show that I can play. I’m still here and I’ll keep waiting for the call.” For now, Iñigo Martínez is solely focused on helping Athletic win games and climb the La Liga table.