Julen Agirrezabala and 10 more from Athletic in the Cup final | Soccer | Sports

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On Saturday in La Cartuja, Athletic’s goalkeeper will be Julen Agirrezabala (San Sebastián, 23 years old). That is the only decision that Ernesto Valverde has already made about the lineup, about which he does not give any clues even though he has a rough idea of ​​who will play against Mallorca. Julen, son of Juanjo Agirrezabala, who was vice president of the Basque Parliament for EH Bildu a decade ago, raised in Lezama, has played 750 minutes this season, after playing all the Cup matches, and only one in the League, the last Sunday at the Bernabéu, in preparation for Seville.

Agirrezabala has a wall in front of him called Unai Simón, a starter in the League and in the Spanish team, so it is difficult for him to play more, although he points out that “to play in games like the final, it is worth being on the bench.” Despite his magnificent performances, which were demonstrated in the clashes against Atlético de Madrid in the semifinals, finding a place in the team is not an easy task, which is why from time to time a debate opens in Bilbao about the possible departure of one of the two goalkeepers. “The debate about the goal doesn’t hurt me, I understand that there is one because Unai is a great goalkeeper, he has been showing it and he is the team’s starting goalkeeper,” says Julen, although he affirms: “Despite playing a few minutes, I feel valued. ”.

Simón doesn’t feel affected either. “I know that I have not directly participated in the Cup, but the competition between Julen and I makes us both better,” he comments, although he confesses that he would have liked to play in the final: “Every year that passes and I don’t play in the Cup They ask me the same question and I will always answer the same: logically, of course I want to play in the Cup, you will never see me say that I don’t want to play it, but the one who rules here is Ernesto (Valverde). It’s impossible that he wouldn’t want to play it. I hope we win it, even if he doesn’t play any minutes”, and he adds: “Julen plays very well, he is a solvent goalkeeper. When Ernesto puts it on it will be because he trusts him. I don’t think we should give it any more thought.”

Agirrezabala also has no trouble facing the most important match of his career. “I handle the pressure well. For a goalkeeper on the field it is important to convey calm and security, but you also need that little bit of nervousness to maintain concentration,” she analyzes.

Julen Agirrezabala started playing for Touring, the team from his town, Errenteria. The scouts of Antiguoko, the mother team of Guipuzcoan football, set their sights on him and recruited him for the club in which Xabi Alonso, Iraola and Arteta, among others, also played. At that time, the San Sebastián team was a member of the Royal Society, so Julen went through the training sessions in Zubieta several times: he was in the cadet category, he had not yet grown up, he was small and thin, and he did not attract the attention of the players. Realistic team technicians. But he grew to reach 1.87m tall and Athletic became interested in him. By the time Real reacted, he had already reached a commitment with the rojiblanco club. In 2018 he played in the youth team, the following year in Basconia, the Third Division reserve team, and in the 2020-2021 season he joined Bilbao Athletic. With the departure of Iago Herrerín, Julen was promoted to the first team and took advantage of the vacation that Marcelino García Toral gave to Unai Simón, who had been playing in the Olympic tournament in Tokyo. He debuted in the First Division on August 16, 2021, against Elche (0-0). The following Sunday he made his debut in San Mamés against Barcelona (1-1).

Now the final is in front of him, and he is already starting to think about the consequences. “Winning would mean a lot and being able to give it to the fans would be something incredible,” she says. “We know what Athletic represents for the fans and what it would mean to win the Cup after 40 years, but we footballers have to know how to live with that; In the last five years we have reached three finals and we must also take that into account.” Julen dreams of what can happen on the Cartuja grass, when the match begins: “In matches of this type, all the goalkeepers see us playing a good role and being protagonists,” he says. And he affirms that he is prepared for everything, even to reach the penalty shootout. “They haven’t thrown any at me in the First Division with Athletic, but in every training session I try to prepare for when the time comes,” because, “any way is good to win a final.” He is confident, however, that he will not have to put himself in that position: “If we give the level we have been showing so far, we have a chance of winning the title in the ninety minutes of the game.”

Regarding Mallorca, and what they can find in front of them, the Athletic goalkeeper warns that “they are a very physical and well-worked opponent who is strong in all types of disputes.” He does not believe that it will be easy to win the title, because “they have had a great Cup, eliminating teams like Girona and Real Sociedad and it will be a very tough game.”

In a locker room in which youth predominates, although there are several footballers who are over thirty and who have been in similar situations several times, Julen Agirrezabala is left with the advice given to him by more experienced players such as De Marcos, Raúl García , Williams or Muniain: “They tell me to enjoy it as if it were just another game because that is how you get the best version of each one.”

In La Cartuja they will be, on behalf of Athletic, Julen Agirrezabala and 10 more. Keeping a clean sheet, as he did in both matches in the semi-final against Atlético de Madrid, will be essential for his team.

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