Athletic Club officially presented Cuco Ziganda as the new first team manager on Thursday in a joint press conference with President Josu Urrutia. The President spoke first and made it cleat that there was never any other candidate besides Ziganda. He said the appointment was natural and praised Ziganda’s familiarity with the club.
“Cuco Ziganda has been with us since 2011. He has been a part of the first team success because of his work with Lezama. Cuco has shared the vision of this club since he arrived in 2011. He has desire, motivation, and believes in this. He has all the conditions needed to continue the success of Athletic’s first team. This was a natural decision and we didn’t even think about anyone else. Valverde, Ziganda, and myself worked as a team. No other manager made sense.”
Ziganda began by thanking the club for the opportunity to become the new first team manager. He said that he has rejected offers to coach in the Primera over the last few years because he was dedicated to his work at Athletic Club and his dream has finally come true.
“The first thing I want to do is thank Urrutia and the club for the opportunity to train the first team. I am very excited. I appreciate this opportunity because I identify with this Club and I adore it. I consider myself the happiest and most fortunate man in the world. I hope this coming season makes us all happy. It’s true that I have rejected offers to coach in the Primera because I always had a clear goal to remain here. I haven’t been in a hurry to get here and I am happy this day has come. I have felt very appreciated and respected here and I don’t take that for granted. I feel that I have a great responsibility but this team has it’s own merit. I am excited to get started.”
Ziganda has been the Bilbao Athletic coach since 2011 and has done a fantastic job. He went on to say that the academy is vital to the success of Athletic and that he still views him self as part of the academy even though he will now be coaching the first team.
“Lezama is very important and you have to follow it and understand what it represents. I am a Lezama coach no matter where I am. I am now the Athletic Club manager and that doesn’t change the importance of Lezama to me. It is an advantage knowing what surrounds me. The club, the San Mames, the players, and the fans. Our market is very small so we must know the players. It is too early to make decisions on the players on loan. The door isn’t closed on anyone. I do wish those on loan would have had the chance to play more. For me, the opinions of Jose Maria Amorrortu will be very important. We will try to improve the group but haven’t decided anything. Now is the time to talk. I want to talk to everyone before I start making decisions.”
One of the things that has stuck out about Athletic is the team’s refusal to give up, no matter the circumstances. Ziganda said that he must keep that fighting spirit alive and that he is excited to have such a young team to lead.
“Athletic is a team that never surrenders whether they play well or badly. That is something that we must continue. We want to improve every day. If something isn’t improving, it is getting worse. The players are young and have a world ahead of them. I am tough and they know it. We will work hard. We are going to take advantage of the fact that we have a young team.”
In closing, Ziganda admitted that there is always pressure in a position like this, but that he feels more responsibility than anything else. In the end, he wants the fans to be happy when they watch Athletic Club and to know that the players on the field represent the fans in every way.
“Pressure is everywhere. Everyone has it. What I feel is more of a responsibility. Here you are more of a public face. I am like Valverde. We were both forwards. We like to attack, train, and are laid back. I have had two very different stages in the Primera. My first year at Osasuna was good and we made it to the semi-finals of the Europa League. At Xerez it was a very hard year. We didn’t play well, but I learned a lot. I like to learn everything that I can. We have not spoken yet about the start of the preseason. We will see who wins the cup and, hopefully, our first match will be in Europe on 27 July. We will let you know when a decision is made. We also still have to decide who will be the Bilbao Athletic coach. I want the fans who watch us to be happy about this team and know that the players represent them.”
Athletic are still waiting to find out if they will qualify for the Europa League, which would be their fourth consecutive year in European competition. The Lions need Barcelona to win the Copa del Rey this weekend for that to happen. If so, Athletic will play their first qualifying match, and Ziganda’s first game in charge, on 27 July. It won’t be long before Ziganda has his team in preseason training.