Iñaki Williams has become a talisman at Athletic Club and one of the fan favorites at the San Mamés. As he and Athletic Club are busy preparing for Wednesday’s match against Atletico Madrid, a lot of fans are still dwelling on the first loss of the season that took place over the weekend. In an exclusive interview with Alfonso Herrán of AS, the 23-year-old said that you have to put the past behind you and prepare for the battle that is coming up.
“We didn’t want that streak to end so soon. The match was equal and we didn’t deserve to lose, but we didn’t win either. We created good chances but didn’t take them. In the end someone has to score because no one likes a draw. But there is no time for lamentations, we have a game coming up and we can’t dwell on the loss. I had chances, but I repeat that there isn’t time to turn and look behind you. Another battle is coming very soon and hopefully we will create chances against Atletico. I know a lot has been made of the fact that I haven’t scored this season. It is often said that if you cannot score goals then assist them. I’m ambitious and the fans demand goals from me. What makes me happy when I go to bed is that the team wins.”
Williams went on to say that experience helps every player with their decision making and that he is lucky to train with such great players on a daily basis. He also highlighted his speed as something that has made him such a successful player, and praised teammate and friend Iker Muniain who is arguably playing the best football of his career right now.
“Experience makes you better with your decision making. I get to play and train every day with great references like Aduriz and Muniain. Some have called us a trident and we have joked about it once or twice. We have a good team and everyone is playing well. If we play as a trident well we can score great goals. Maybe we will in the next game. Being with them makes you grow and it’s a pleasure to be alongside them. Sure, I am known for my speed and that is thanks to my parents. It is a matter of genetics and I’ll exploit that to its fullest. The speed I have is unique, it is what makes me shine on the field. I’m so happy for Iker [Munian] and his great form because he deserves it. There have been a lot of people who have criticized him, who haven’t trusted him and now they are all silent. He deserves every good thing that happens to him.”
When discussing Atletico Madrid, Williams was quick to point out that Antoine Griezmann is the player who can cause the most problems for Athletic. However, he says that the Lions are not afraid and will try to play offensively in front of their own fans. he believes it will be an even game, especially with the San Mamés supporting Athletic.
“Atletico have a great squad. The one that makes the differences are Griezmann and he is at a high level. We are not afraid and we will try to lead with our offensive game. We also have to face Felipe Luis and Godín…there is a lot of quality. Godín gives a lot to their team, but we have players that can cause problems for him. It will be very even. There are always teams that you point to wanting to beat even more than others, especially at home.”
Iñaki was soon asked what he thinks about his release clause and his future at Athletic. Once again he made it clear that he is happy at his boyhood club and isn’t thinking about leaving. He said that he doesn’t know what he is honestly worth, but that his release clause doesn’t matter because he has no desire to leave Athletic.
“The market has gone crazy; it’s broken. I am calm. If you are happy where you are then it doesn’t matter what your release clause is. I do not think about leaving Athletic. When the big teams are interested in you it shows that you are doing things well. I don’t know what I am worth. The President put a €50 million release clause in my contract, but I do not want to leave Athletic Club. When I see fans on the streets I tell them that I feel very dear and valued, that they give me encouragement. The fans cheering my name is very special. If I could give them anything in return it would be pulling out the Gabarra which is what we all dream of as a child. On the day of the Supercopa you saw all the people looking at you as if you were a god and that was priceless. Hopefully we can lift another title and re-excite all those fans who deserve it and go to the stadium to encourage us.”
Naturally, the conversation turned to the ongoing contract negotiations with Kepa Arrizabalaga and Iñaki only had words of praise for his teammate. He stated that everyone wants the keeper to renew and remain at Athletic, calling the team a club of the academy where every player should be looking in the same direction.
“This is football. It is his renewal and he is calm. He’s proven that he is the Athletic goalkeeper and when he plays he shines. We all want him to renew, to stay here and be happy with us. This is Athletic and we are a club of the academy. We all have to secure ourselves in the team when we get the chance to be promoted and we can all achieve great things together. We all should be looking in the same direction.”
In closing, Iñaki revealed that he is dreaming of playing with the Spain National Team and going to the World Cup next summer. He believes that he has the manager’s confidence at both the International and Club level and is excited about the future. When comparing Kuko Ziganda and Ernesto Valverde the Lezama product said that they are different, but was really thankful for all that Ziganda did in helping him reach the first team.
“I dream of going to the National Team and, next summer, to the World Cup. I am working for it and I enjoy playing with the great players of La Roja. I hope I can get a place. The manager has shown me that he has confidence in me and that he is able to count on me. At Athletic, Kuko and Valverde are different. Both have done very well. Ziganda has been an important part of my career. He helped me and gave me that small boost to climb to the first team. He has a lot of confidence in me. I just want to play my best where he puts me. Whether it is on the wing or up front I feel comfortable.”
No matter what the future holds, Iñaki Williams is only thinking of facing Atletico Madrid on Wednesday. The Lions could climb as high as second place in the La Liga table with a win, but a loss would see them fall out of the top six. The Lions have been nearly unbeatable at the San Mamés over the last 12 months and the fans will be hoping that that run of form continues with such a big game on the horizon.
* This interview was conducted by Alfonso Herrán of AS and has been translated in its entirety.