All Athletic news revolves around the first Cup final, that of April 3 against Real Sociedad. The team of Marcelino He began training on Monday focused solely and exclusively on the La Cartuja game and the balconies began to be adorned with the red-and-white colors. Dani
Bazan He was the captain of the last Athletic Cup. The Biscayan recalls that match against Barça in 84 and analyzes the clash against the Guipuzcoans. “A final is a lottery,” he says knowingly.
There are ten days left for the final against Real. Has it been too long?
More than long it has made me strange. The current situation in football, sports in general and normal life is totally different from what it was a year ago. In these moments I find football very different and very rare in every way. It was neither long nor short, I have not thought much about it until the date has approached.
How does someone like you feel at the moment who has been everything in Athletic and who was the captain of the last Cup champion team?
It always depends on how each one is. I imagine that Athletic fans and supporters will be a bit nervous. Those of us who have played and experienced a final like me, will be a little more nervous than them. And the third group, the coaching staff and the players, who are the true protagonists, I think that although the coach tries to say that they have not thought about it in these last league games, it is not the reality. Internally, you are thinking because a Cup final for Athletic is something very big, very important. And in this case, have two in 15 days, imagine. It is the only team in the League that is going to play two finals in such a short space of time. As the game gets closer, the tingling in the stomach and that nervousness that we talked about before grows.
At the moment I find football very different and very rare in every way due to the pandemic
Do you get back the memories of your time, of that final against Barça in 1984?
Yes, because the media publish photos and reports from that time. Every time I see it, it is an emotion for me. The day it happened to me, I said that I would never forget it and that’s how it has been. I will not forget because winning two Leagues and a Cup has been the greatest thing I have achieved. Especially for me because it caught me at the end of my career, when you already think that you are going to retire without getting a trophy. I was lucky to get those three titles. What was experienced in Bizkaia and in the Basque Country will not be repeated, no matter how hard you try to get the barge out. It will never be the same because the images that were given of the Ría, with a large number of boats surrounding the barge, cannot be repeated because they will not allow it. Those images can never be erased in my life.
You who lived the days before a final, what does the player feel in those moments?
It is very difficult to get into each other’s skin. All Athletic players know what a Cup final means for the club and what it would mean to win the title. They have to be super excited and happy thinking about that game. The advice they gave us is also good now: don’t get over your nerves, they often betray when it comes to playing. You have to have your head well settled. It is important that two or three footballers within the group, the most veteran, keep calm in the locker room. The work of the coach is also important. In our case, Javi Clemente was a very, very important man at that time. A final is a lottery. Football in a game like this does not depend on how each team arrives. It depends much more on other factors. You have to be lucky at that moment.
How do you see Marcelino’s team? His performance has dropped a bit in recent games.
It is normal. The scoring production has dropped a bit, but the team maintains the type well. He had an extraordinary improvement with the arrival of Marcelino. I have always defended Garitano and I have said that a monument should have been made for him for the things he did at the beginning. When nobody gave a penny for the team, he got us out of very difficult situations. But soccer orders you and commands you to do those things. The team is the same. They are the same players and instead their mentality is totally different. Marcelino will have influenced and the footballers themselves will have realized that they had to change their mentality.
What would you say are the strengths and things to improve on the team?
I don’t like to delve into technical aspects. To give two strokes, what has changed is the mentality of the players. They practically play the eleven that played with Garitano. It is a mental change. What are we missing? We lack many things and we have other things that other teams do not have. Being the team and the group that we are, the philosophy, all these things in difficult moments make us pull up against superior rivals. Others do not have these qualities. The most important factor that we are missing at the moment is the public and San Mamés. It gives me the feeling that I am not watching Athletic. It is like a latte that is cold, lacks sugar and has no milk. Nowadays Athletic matches don’t even seem like football matches to me. The fans are missing and what is San Mamés.
A Cup final for Athletic is something very big. And in this case, having two in 15 days, much more
Would the team have more points in the league with an audience in San Mamés?
Surely not, sure enough. San Mamés has always given us extra points every season and especially in difficult moments. The public will put you back in the game if the team is down … We would have more points and the team would be higher.
What percentage of responsibility does Marcelino have in the improvement experienced in these two and a half months?
A lot of. When they ask me about the successes of our time, I say that a very high percentage were from Javi Clemente. How a coach transmits, how he relates and how he has the booth, if he is happy or unhappy, are factors that decisively influence a team. In our time, Clemente was a very positive coach. He was a big culprit for the hits. And Marcelino must also be given his credit. The work he has done with the players has had an effect because since the team arrived, they have had another way of playing, another joy… You see something else on the pitch that everyone praises.
How do you see the final against Real?
I don’t have any favorites. The finals are finals. It has nothing to do with the fact that Athletic is now a little worse or that Real conceded six goals on Sunday against Barça. It has to see how the players are psychologically and then the hour and a half of the game. The nerves of the footballers will influence, be more or less calm, get it right in the first moments, the refereeing decisions, many of the things that influence a game like this. The final is at 50%.
How do you see the txuri urdin outfit?
They have a good team, with young people but with knowledge of the First Division. It is an important team. Regularity in a league is not by luck. La Real is there for something, but this doesn’t mean anything either. Everything will depend on luck at the last moment.
Can winning the title be more feasible against Real than against Barça?
I don’t care if I win the title against Real or against Barça. For sporting benefit, that of Barça is more important because if we win it takes us to Europe. It’s the only thing I can think of. The rest I don’t care. I give the example of the final that we won against Barça, who had a great team with Maradona and company. Surely in the previous week, 95% bet on the culé team and we won 0-1. It is unpredictable. What I want is to win one of the two finals.