Skip to main content

Hinchas y Jugadores - Athletic Bilbao with James Etxegorri (5th May, 2017)

James Extegorri runs the website with the most up-to-date news on Athletic Club, insideathletic.com. You can follow it on Twitter here too.

A bit about yourself and your background...

My name is James Etxegorri. I am a Basque-Catalan who was born in the United States. I moved back to Bilbao when I was older to get close to my family and heritage. I grew up loving Athletic Club and the Basque Country. My heritage and family has shaped a lot of my identity.

How long have you been a fan of Athletic Bilbao and what made you support them in the first place?

I have been an Athletic Club supporter since I was a child. Being Basque, my entire family loved Athletic. Supporting Athletic isn’t just being a fan of a club; it is a way of life and an identity. I’ve seen the club’s ups and downs and have loved every moment.

Given the transfer windows and the squad that was assembled at the start of the season, is Athletic Bilbao where you want it to be?

Athletic’s Basque only policy does limit the transfer window, but there is always talent and ways to improve. Last summer the club did not make a single signing and chose to promote 3 players instead. Yeray and Kepa Arrizabalaga have become unrivaled starters this season, while Mikel Vesga is playing very well on loan at Sporting Gijón. When the season began I thought Athletic had to finish in the top 6 for it to be a successful year. Finishing 4th to be in the Champions League was the dream. Ernesto Valverde has had Athletic in Europe every single season, so keeping that going was the goal. Right now Athletic is 6th in the table with tie breakers on the two clubs right underneath them. Also, just one point separates Athletic and Villarreal for 5th place. Based on what I was expecting and hoping for when the season began, I’m happy with where the club is currently sitting in the table. The early exit from the Europa League was disappointing though.

Of the signings made this season, which one worked out the best/had the most impact and why?

Well, seeing as how no new signings were made I guess we can look at the promotions. Yeray and Kepa have been absolutely excellent and it is nearly impossible to separate them. Both have been vital to the club’s success so I really can’t choose one over the other.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of Athletic Bilbao this season? Any standout players?

Athletic’s strength continues to be the ability to control possession and dominate in the air. The midfield has been strong and is the base of operations. Going forward, the Lions like to use to wings to create space before moving the ball into the center. Aritz Aduriz is the focal point of the attack and is great at finishing crosses. Iñaki Williams and Iker Muniain are able to create out wide, using their pace and dribbling ability. The most important player is Beñat. He is the one who orchestrates everything in the midfield. When Beñat plays well, Athletic plays well; but when he goes missing, the Lions tend to struggle.  As far as weaknesses, Athletic can sometimes struggle to create chances and finish chances. There have been games when the team hasn’t created any real scoring threat, and there have been games when they had plenty of chances and just couldn’t finish. At times, Athletic has also started games slowly and that has hurt them.

List some things you appreciate and some things you can’t stand about the club management. 

To be honest, there isn’t much that I dislike about Athletic. I love everything the club stands for, from the Basque only policy to the focus on youth development. To highlight some specifics, Athletic has a very specific pay structure that I find amazing. It has helped the club not get into debt like the vast majority of other European clubs. The only thing I can really think of that I find negative is that the club will sometimes refuse to pay what it takes to sign a player, which causes them to miss out. Then again, it does make sense. The policy makes other clubs ask a ton from Athletic and the Lions shouldn’t really set the precedence of overpaying because it will only get worse. But sometimes the club should open the purse a bit more to get a player when they really want him.

 What has the mood among the fans been during the campaign? Do you generally agree/disagree with them?

The mood in Bilbao has been very good. Fans are excited to see the club making a strong push for 5th place. There was a lot of disappointment over being eliminated so early from the Europa League and rightfully so. The team should have made it further, but a strong finish in the league will be seen with a lot of joy. I agree with the general outlook of the majority of fans.

 Are there any talented youngsters at the club that you expect to have a big future?

Well, Yeray and Kepa have been great in their first season. Laporte, Iñaki, Lekue, Sabin Merino, and Iker are all still young as well. As far as players not in the first team, there are many who could have big futures. First is Asier Villalibre. He is a left-footed striker who is a great goal scorer and made his debut this season. Peru Nolaskoain (CM), Jon Sillero (RB), Iker Undabarrena (DM), and Iñigo Córdoba (LW) all have a high ceiling as well. Lastly, there are two young strikers who have really been turning heads. Iñigo Vicente broke basically every scoring record at Lezama and could make his debut as early as next year. Ruben Azcona set a Juvenil scoring record this year with 51 goals, nearly 20 more than the previous record. Lezama is full of talented youngsters.

If you could make one realistic signing for Athletic Bilbao this summer who would it be?
As far as realistic signings go, there are two players Athletic is looking at: Alex Berenguer and Mikel Merino. Berenguer can play left-back or left-wing and has a lot of pace. Merino is a central midfielder that could become Beñat’s eventual replacement. Both signings would be incredible, but Merino is the one I would sign if I could only choose one. He has the quality to become a world class midfielder.

Finally, predicted finish for Athletic Bilbao?

I think Athletic will and should finish in the top 6. Finishing 5th is definitely likely, but as long as they are in the top 6 then the goal has been achieved.

A huge thanks to James for agreeing to do this!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Francisco Pérez Pérez - the actual oldest player to have played in Spain (1st November, 2017)

I've always wanted to ask a football player: how much do you love your club? If you see your club go down, what are you willing to put on the line to see them go back up? The notion that "players will come and players will go, but the fans are the club" is one that is sadly true in what has become a money-filled sport. The story of a player sacrificing money and success for his club? That story is rare. That story is beautiful. This is that story. This is the story of a player who loved his club. His local club. It'll be a long time if and when someone beats his record. Francisco Pérez Pérez, also known as Chico, currently holds the record for being the oldest player to play in the Segunda B - 43 years and 93 days is the figure. That's a figure that second place Diego Rodríguez Fernández (41 years and 324 days) falls short of by a year and 134 days. I should also point out that the top 3 list for oldest players to play in any of the top three tier

Non-league Incider: Cray Valley Paper Mills 4-4 Punjab United Gravesend

Last game: 9th August: St Helens Town 3-0 Atherton Laburnum Rovers After ripping up my groundhopping calendar, mostly because I was determined to avoid overnight travel, and partly due to other commitments, there was a period of time where non-league football took a backseat. But that period did not last long. Because of course it didn't. Secretly, I'd loved travelling over ten hours back-and-forth to watch some 10th division football. And this was 9th division football in London. When I had gone to East Dulwich exactly a week back , I had commented on how the amount of graffiti struck me as I watched from on board a southeastern train. I was going the exact same way, but much further this time - then I had stopped at Denmark Hill, now I would have to go six stations further. The graffiti I had thought was so emblematic of south London quickly disappeared, as did the tall buildings desperately cluttered together. We, and by we I mean me, were going to the suburb

Who is Raúl Martín Presa, the Mickey Mouse? Part 1. (20th August, 2017)

José María Ruiz-Mateos was the head and main shareholder of Nueva Rumasa - the company that owned Rayo and other companies - mainly specializing in dairy products. (He wasn't the president of Rayo though - his wife, Teresa Rivero, was Rayo's president). In early 2011, the directors announced a debt of over 700 million euros, that it was on the verge of bankruptcy and that staff wouldn't be paid. And the players were visibly angry about it - captain Míchel assured the press that the club would continue fighting on the pitch, but the day after the announcement was made, six key players didn’t attend training. Veteran midfielder José María Movilla spoke on radio station SER about the situation, about the fact that he had only received seven of the last eighteen months of pay, about the fact that there were a few players who couldn't even afford car repairs. When Rayo Vallecano were about to earn promotion to La Liga despite all the odds - the players not being paid,