‘It’s all down to him, he’s found the key’ – Athletic Club duo effusive in praise of Ernesto Valverde

Inaki Williams and Nico Williams often starting on opposite sides, usually united by intentions, the pair have both singled out manager Ernesto Valverde as the key to their success in the Copa del Rey and La Liga this season. As they head to the Metropolitano on Saturday night, the Basque side can leapfrog Atletico Madrid into fourth place this weekend.

During an interview with Diario AS, the pair were quizzed on the success of Athletic Club this year, where they have taken a leap forward. The Copa del Rey triumph was historic, but it’s been an excellent season for Los Leones, and the Williams were asked how much of it was down to Valverde.

“For me, everything, he is the leader, the one who has found the key with this team, he has known how to bring out the best version of all the players and manage the changes, the promotion of the reserve team players, the minutes… He is the architect of all this, he deserves it more than anyone. This recognition from the Copa will make him one of the best Athletic coaches in history. He deserves it. He tells us to heed his words in everything he says, but what he communicates to us is done with a lot of sense. We are proud that he is our coach. That he can continue with this project for many years is very necessary for Athletic.”

“I think the same. He has made me take a leap in quality in terms of my game. He is always very attentive to me, he corrects me, although I don’t really like it when they do it (laughs). I am very happy with him and I hope he continues at Athletic.”

Inaki also had some glowing words for departing captain Iker Muniain, who will leave the club this summer after nearly 20 years at the club.

“Iker and I are like brothers, we have been together for ten years. I have always felt a lot of admiration for him, because he came from a neighborhood that is next to mine (Txantrea and Rotxapea, two areas in Pamplona). We have many friends in common from before I arrived at Athletic. I’ve always wanted to be like him. I have seen him grow and I feel lucky to be by his side all these years. We have grown, laughed and cried together. He has taught me a lot in a lot of times when things haven’t gone well for me.”

Athletic will also be losing veteran Raul Garcia this summer, meaning Los Leones will lose the second-most capped Athletic player of all time, and the third-most capped player in La Liga history. Nico Williams has said publicly that he will be at San Mames for many years to come, but many Athleticzales will be nervous about the summer, with a reported €50m release clause in his contract.

Tags Athletic Club Ernesto Valverde Gorka Guruzeta Iker Muniain Inaki Williams Jude Bellingham Nico Williams Savio Moreira Unai Simon
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