Athletic Club completed their third training session of the preseason on Wednesday, with Cuco Ziganda using the entire field for a scrimmage of the first time. The 27 players are already learning a lot from their new coach and adjusting to the differences from Ernesto Valverde. After the first session of the day, Iker Muniain spoke to the media and made it clear that the team has been excited to train under Ziganda and that he sees the players very motivated.
“The sensations are fantastic. We have all been looking forward to training under the new coach. I have been excited to train under Ziganda. I see the team eager and very motivated. Every coach has differences and Ziganda and Valverde are two different personalities. Ernesto was more silent and tranquil. You can’t speak ill of him because everything he did was magnificent. I see Cuco with a lot of desire and energy. He transmits strength to the players. I like people with that ambition, I love it. I like the strength that he conveys and the goal is to do great things. I appreciate the ambition of Cuco. It is something that I love and I identify with it.”
Muniain went on to admit that every year the pressure grows. The Lions have qualified for European competition for four straight years and the fans have demanded more each following season. The upcoming campaign begins very soon so Athletic is working hard to be ready.
“The demands increase every year because the fans demand more and want more. You can’t live on what you have accomplished in the past. Of course, the goal is to qualify for Europe and to make it to the group stage of the Europa League this season. That would make us very happy. We know that we will play our first game on the 27th so these weeks will serve as preparation for our opponents. We will play several friendlies against high quality opponents and that will help to prepare us as well. The trainings in Switzerland will be helpful to get us ready for the match on the 27th.”
Ziganda is currently without Inaki Williams and Kepa Arrizabalaga, who are on vacation due to serving with Spain’s U21 team, as well as Yeray who is currently undergoing chemotherapy. Still, Muniain has seen a lot of competition in the team. He was also asked about the possibility of signing Mikel Merino or Alex Berenguer, but stated that it isn’t his place to speak on that topic.
“Right now there are 27 players, without Inaki, Kepa, and Yeray. The preseason is like that because everyone is back and trying to earn a place in the team. The squad will tighten. It is very healthy to have competition and it helps the team and the players grow and get better. The competition here is at a maximum. If it isn’t level, there are players pushing others harder. That is good news for everyone. I’ve heard of the rumors (regarding Mikel Merino and Alex Berenguer) but it isn’t for me to discuss. There is a person who is in charge of transfers. If someone comes, they will be very welcome here. If not, we have a strong and complete team. It is hard to sign new players.
In closing, Muniain was asked about the rumors linking him with a move to Sevilla this summer. He shrugged off the rumors as something that always comes up during the summer, but made it clear that he is happy at Athletic and is only thinking about helping the Lions be as strong as possible this season.
“Rumors like this happen every summer. I am very happy here. These things will get talked about on a daily basis but I don’t pay it any attention. I want to help this team be even better. Last year I did score more goals, but I am going to work hard because I want to improve and help the team more.”
Athletic Club will finish training this week before flying to Switzerland on Monday. They will train in the country for eight days and play in three friendly matches. The season will officially begin on 27 July when the Lions play the first leg of their Europa League qualifier. With a little more than three weeks left, training will be vital to starting off the year in a strong way.