The tall striker scored his first goals after a five-game dry spell on Sunday in the Basque derby 2-1 win over Real Sociedad, but in an interview with Marca denied it was preoccupying his mind.
– Confess. You had gone five official matches in a row without scoring, and had managed just one goal in eight official games played before Sunday. Were you beginning to get preoccupied with the drought?
I was not worried, though whilst in front of goal you always live better when you score because it helps your team. In this case, I was trying not to give it too much thought.
Although I had not scored, I was doing other work for the benefit of the team, and that’s important. But I also knew that the goals had to come sooner or later, because the work has been there every day, and that in the end pays off.
– And how. Your double decided the derby at Anoeta. Is it better to win in San Sebasitan or anywhere else?
Winning at Anoeta is always special. More than three points, it was a very important win for us. As I said after the game, I prefer to win in Anoeta than to beat Real Madrid or Barcelona.
I really wanted to celebrate a triumph over a very tough opponent and in very bad circumstance in which we played [high temperatures from midday kick-off].
– Despite the heat, seeing how good you were, do you aim to play at noon forever?
Although we have done well, it was a difficult and very tough game to play. The time is a little odd.
We’re not used to getting into a bowl of rice at nine o’clock, for example. But you have to adapt and put up a good face. If things continue to go just as well [as against Real Sociedad] then we will have to keep playing at that time.
– Do you remember the last time you played at 12?
I think since my youth I did not play at noon, or maybe one game at Athletic Bilbao, but many years ago, yes I played at that time. Of course, not for so long have I suffered so much in a match for the tremendous heat.
It was a terrible event because we had not had a lot of time to recover from the match against Paris Saint-Germain [Thursday night’s Europa League encounter]. The victory was hard-fought and the whole team suffered but was really amazing considering how hot it was.
– In the absence of good results, were there already doubts about the validity of the project and the intended change of style with the new Coach?
The results had to come because the work we were doing with Bielsa has been great. No results came, but with good work that is just a matter of time.
We have always been behind the boss and I think things had to start working, even though something looked wrong when all that work did not translate into results. Hopefully the dynamic will change now.
– How have the change in training methods and the game system under Bielsa been assimulated? Do you feel comfortable with your new role within the team?
The system is working great. We are behind the Coach and togetherness of the dressing room is amazing. We believe in our work and in this way of doing things. I’m becoming better, it has not cost me anything and I’ve adapted well, and I feel comfortable with him.
It has taken me a while to start in the scoring aspect, but not in terms of work for the team. It is true that I have to do other work, something different from before, but it also gives me the opportunity to continue growing as a player and to use my skills to make another type of game. I am very happy and still have room for improvement.
– Bielsa admitted after losing to Real Betis that you were the best in the team. Is that opinion comforting when things are not going well?
Bielsa has always trusted in me and told me he was very happy with my work, both in training and games.
It has given me confidence and we’re proving that every day, that above all, he is a very good person, but also a great Coach. He has many years of experience working in football. He knows a lot about this and I think we will improve a lot with him.
– And you trust Vicente Del Bosque, who has returned to call you up even though you are not experiencing your best form or scoring goals.
Being in la Seleccion is incredible, the best thing that ever happened. I am grateful to Del Bosque to see that he still relies on me and calls me again. It is an incentive to keep working and doing things with Athletic, which is what always gives me the possibility of playing with the Spanish team.
The original Spanish version of the interview conducted by Rafa Beato and published on marca.com can be found here.