Jagoba Arrasate, the coach of Club Atlético Osasuna that faces Athletic in Pamplona this Wednesday in the first leg of the Cup semifinal (9:00 p.m., Movistar), is in charge of the squad, but he has two people at his side who offer him the highest confidence; with which he can go anywhere knowing that he will have his back well covered. One of them is the Osasunista sports director, Braulio Vázquez; the other, his second in command, Bittor Alkiza. Arrasate shares responsibilities with the two at different levels. And the three of them are taking the same step so that Osasuna has a firm footing in the League — it is ranked eighth, one point behind Rayo, in European positions — and is two metro games away from the Cup final.
Braulio Vázquez (Pontevedra, 51 years old) had a fleeting stint at John Toshack’s Deportivo. He played a few minutes in the First Division, then went to Portugal and returned to Spain to play for several Second B and Third teams. As a coach he did not have much of a career either: Valencia signed him as a scout, and in 2010, in one of many Valencian crises, he was elevated to sports management, with little money to sign and many demands from the fans. Despite everything, Valencia was third in two consecutive seasons and a semifinalist in the Europa League. In 2013, the club sold a lot, bought little, and Vázquez ended up being sacked by the president, Amadeo Salvo. He then went through Valladolid, and since 2017 he has been the sports director of Osasuna. The club failed in the first attempt to promote to the Second Division with Diego Martínez on the bench, but Braulio turned to Jagoba Arrasate to win the League and move up to the First Division. Since then, their relationship has been part of Osasuna’s success, despite the fact that the club maintains a discreet profile when it comes to signing players.
“We like to plan well in advance, because Osasuna cannot go to bids at an economic level and you have to do it with a lot of time,” explains Braulio. The Navarrese club looks at every euro that comes in and goes out of its coffers, so with the four players that have left in the winter market, a lot of money has been saved. In summary, “we are the Gallic village of Asterix, and we are delighted, but let’s not forget the difficulty that this entails; Because we are a club, we do not have an owner who will increase capital at the end of the season and have money to make transfers ”, he concludes.
So Osasuna continues to live off what Tajonar produces, the last fruits: Aimar and Moncayola; and of the incorporations in which it is necessary to refine, as in the case of Moi Gómez.
The confidence in the Biscayan coach was clearly reflected on January 14, 2021, with the team in relegation places. It was then that Vázquez appeared at a press conference to defend the coach: “The boat is piloted by the captain, who is Jagoba, the lieutenant is Bittor and the rest of the crew are the rest”, he assured emphatically. “And the ship will arrive at port or not, but with the same captain. If we sink, we all sink. And if not, we will all reach port. We trust them to death. We all go together”.
Without changing the style, with that dynamic football that ignites the stands of El Sadar, which tirelessly bombards the rival area, Osasuna came out. Two years later, things look different, and when Braulio is asked about the continuity of Arrasate, he is as emphatic as three years ago. “I have experience with coaches who have offers and I don’t see Jagoba with the intention of going anywhere. It is not a perception, it is information, he wants to break the record for tenure on the Osasuna bench [Zabalza sumó 340 partidos y él lleva 195]”. And he confesses: “I supported her when the boat was adrift, and now that she is sailing in the Mediterranean, I know that she will be there to continue in the team.”
the right place
The other corner of the triangle is Bittor Alkiza (San Sebastián, 52 years old), who began as a footballer at Real Sociedad, where his father was the president, and had a common link with Braulio Vázquez: Toshack also encouraged him, who did not He did not put any fault with his transfer to Athletic for 220 million pesetas (1.3 million euros), despite being one of the most beloved players by the fans. At the end of his career he returned to Real to play his last two seasons, and in 2010 he became director of grassroots football at Zubieta. There he began the relationship with Arrasate, as the third coach in the first realistic team. When the Biscayan was dismissed, Bittor went with him, first to Numancia and then to Osasuna. “Surely we have fallen in the right place at the right time,” Alkiza said in an interview with Mundo Deportivo. “Jagoba has been taking important steps on a day-to-day basis in the way of transmitting to the outside, because inside he has always had it. We are in the ideal place because of the way Jagoba is. He has landed on his feet, ”says his right hand on the bench. “In moments of difficulty, Braulio has always said that Jagoba was the one and that those who resulted in the results were going to continue counting on him and that makes you face the future with peace of mind and guarantees.”
A future that Alkiza always observes next to Arrasate, without wanting to come to the fore, because in a world of excessive egos, Bittor makes a surprising confession: “I have it very clear. Jagoba knows what he wants from me, I know what he wants and I sense what he may need, but first I know that I’m not worth it”, and he goes on: “You have to be worth it to manage a group and to transmit the ideas you have to the inside and out. If it is very complicated. People don’t know the effort it takes to be a skilled trainer. And I know I’m worthless.”
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