Igor Zubeldia (Azkoitia, 1997) is already becoming a classic at Real. With 170 games behind him, about to end his fifth season in the first team, he speaks with the poise of veterans and the affection and commitment of those who have sucked the txuri urdin feeling from the cradle. In MD he reveals that they have already begun to negotiate the renewal of his contract that ends in 2024 and that the pubic discomfort is forgotten.
How do you take this break?
It’s only three days, for us it’s like a vacation, because, with the trot we’ve been running so far, we’ve been very busy, with no free time.
Imanol said a while ago that he was suffering from pubic problems, how is he now?
To tell you the truth, now I feel very well. Lately I barely remember the injury. Now we only have one game a week and it allows us to train much harder, to the fullest. And training hard and being fine the next day makes me feel very happy.
Did they consider having to go through the operating room?
When the injury appeared, the operation was on the table, but I got better and we ruled it out. And today, I am confident that I will not have to go through the operating room.
For now, the nine games remaining to finish the course
That’s why, that’s why. I’ve been managing loads all season and now I’m training every day and feeling good, so I hope they don’t have to do anything to me.
How does the team reach the final stretch of the season?
Very good, eager and very motivated. Best of all, we depend on us. We will try to give our best version and go for it.
The qualifying situation is almost identical to that of the past two years, how do you see it?
The goal is the same: to go to Europe. We will fight with all our strength and we hope to achieve it, as we have done the last two seasons, also competing against great teams. I think we are getting better, more mature, more competitive and more of a team.
Do you see it more difficult than other years?
I think that every year LaLiga is getting tighter. It won’t be easy. But we like these challenges and we will go for it.
What made you more angry about falling out of the Cup or the Europa League?
Both. Nobody likes to be eliminated from any competition. But after two days we were focused on what was to come, the past did not exist and there was no time for regrets. You have to be strong and move on.
Is it possible to take a step forward in those tournaments in the future, especially knowing what it means to win one?
Yes. We already demonstrated it just a year ago. We already know what it is to lift a Cup. I am sure that in the near future we will be close to winning a title.
He is playing everything, even as a midfielder, he still plays as a winger against Espanyol…
Well, here I am. My goal is always the same: help the team win. I don’t care if it’s as a starter, from the bench or in any demarcation. I focus on training hard and always being available to play.
Did you appreciate that game against PSV in which you played in your pivot demarcation?
Yes. I hadn’t played in that position for a long time and the truth is that I felt very good and everything went perfectly. Many memories came to me in that demarcation. Happy.
Zubieta does not allow high-level centers to be taken out…
And keep coming out more. I adapt to whatever.
Are they obsessed with not scoring goals?
Not at all. But not at all. At the beginning of the season, everything was setbacks, now it’s costing, but in football it’s all streaks. In that sense, the team is very calm because we know that, like everything else, that will also come.
Has the permanent challenge of the door to zero been able to lead to losing power and freshness upstairs?
No. We are training hard, we work everything. And this is streaks. He now touches many clean sheets and fewer goals and in other seasons he has been the other way around. We are not worried at all.
You are ending your fifth season in the first team, although you made your debut six years ago, you have played 170 games, do you consider yourself a veteran at 25 next week?
I am a young veteran. The kids debut getting younger and younger. And the average age of the team is very short. Being the fifth season, I don’t know if I can consider myself a veteran, but I am a player made in the team. I am always willing to help those who climb.
You will already be one of those in charge of giving advice, right?
I do and delighted. My teammates and I feel part of his progression. A team has to work like this.
How are you doing this season?
I have not been a starter on many occasions, but look what I am going to tell you. I feel that this season I have grown, that I am a better player, I have also learned to accept things as they come, without complaining or blaming anyone, or complaining, and to be calm in the face of difficulty. I think about things more and I am grateful every day for the privilege of being a footballer, of the Real and I have learned never to give up.
Who was Zubeldia’s guide when he arrived at the age of 18?
Before the team was different. The average age was higher, there were more veteran players. It imposed more. Suddenly I started playing with soccer players who were my idols like Prieto or Zurutuza, whom I saw every Sunday as a ball boy. As soon as I arrived, I imposed myself, the truth. Today, it is different. Almost all of us coincided in the Sanse, we already had a much closer relationship. That is why that jump from the second to the first team is perhaps easier, it is not so different.
How was the moment of Oyarzabal’s injury?
We were training normally and in a silly action, a dispute over the ball, Mikel fell. As soon as he fell, he started screaming and put his hand on his knee. He did not look good at all and in the afternoon we knew the result. From there, he psyched himself up and we psyched ourselves up. Just yesterday (day of the operation) I spoke with him, he told me that everything had gone very well. He already has something less to come back. He already knows that we are going to miss him in the green. And I’m sure he’ll come back stronger than ever.
Did you already sense that it was something serious at the time?
Yes. It was terrible because he was screaming and all around was silence. We all looked at each other, thinking it was going to be the worst. So it was. A shame, but these are things that happen in football. You have to face it, like everything.
Will they have to stop him?
Sure, but make the best of it so there’s nothing wrong with you again. You already know him very well. Inside and outside he is a great teammate and a leader.
Mikel’s contract ends in 2024, like yours, and Olabe said that they were already in the process of renewing it, are there negotiations to extend yours?
Yes. We’ve already started talking, but I don’t pay attention to it. I try to focus on the day to day.
Is there any other possibility other than continuing as txuri urdin?
Not at all. I am very happy here. I only focus on finishing well this season, these nine games and achieving the objective.