Marcelino arrived in the Basque Country at the beginning of 2021 to a team in the throes of mid-table mediocrity. He’s galvanised his charges, injecting an undeniable thrust of forward momentum.
Athletic beat Real Madrid in the semi-final of the Supercopa de Espana before defeating Barcelona in the final, winning their first trophy since 2015.
They could actually repeat the trick twice before the season is out, given they play Basque rivals Real Sociedad in the delayed final of the 2020 Copa del Rey in April and are still in the fight for the 2021 edition having qualified for the quarter-finals, where they’ll face Real Betis.
In La Liga, Athletic have been rising up the table steadily. This evening they travel to a Barcelona side still hurting from the Supercopa defeat, and hold the opportunity to climb as high as eighth. Williams, Los Leones’ frontman, is in ebullient form and optimistic of their future.
“We are in a very good dynamic,” he told Marca in an exclusive interview. “We’re on the crest of the wave and we have to keep surfing it. It’s a nice game to show that we can be the best.
“Football is made up of runs and we’re on a positive one. The arrival of the coach has meant that those of us who weren’t doing so well can. It is helping us a lot to grow and we have a lot to improve. The truth is that green shoots are being seen and we’re leaving a good mark.
“When he arrived he talked with me and told me that he would play me more as a forward than as a winger. It’s the place I like to play and I prefer the way we’re playing now, with fast counter-attacks and vertical passes to find me quickly.
“I’m delighted to be playing the role of an important player. I will try to return that confidence with goals and a job well done.
“The days after winning the Supercopa there were memes that were very funny, we were sharing them in the team group chat.
“For them it will be a small revenge. All the games we play against Barcelona are very intense. I expect a fairly even game in which nobody is going to give anything away. We will need to be right and defend strong.”