Antonio Jesús López Nieto is excited. The president of Unicaja is satisfied with the work done in the offices in this summer market and trusts that the season that is about to start will be the one of the resurrection of the green and purple club.
The president began by talking about that Preliminary Phase of the BCL that will have to be faced at the end of September and in which the typesetter team will play for a place in the next edition of the European competition. “The first objective is to be able to participate in the next Basketball Champions League. It was not easy to convince all the parties so that, without breaking the bases, we could be in the Preliminary Phase. I thank the FEB, in the figure of Jorge Garbajosa, and the Junta de Andalucía and the work of José María Arrabal, who have been partners in these long conversations. And we also played it in Malaga”, he stressed.
The president recalled that the situation was very complicated at the end of the last League. “Sportingly, we didn’t achieve our goal, but we wanted to assert the club we represent, the League we play in (that of the last two BCL finalists), the potential of basketball in Malaga… But you couldn’t break the rules of the competition. We had to convince them that we had to be 6 teams from Spain. I am glad that Breogán entered because they were ahead and it was an obligation for them to be there if we were“.
López Nieto explained why Unicaja started working so soon, before any other club in the Endesa League. “We have started training before anyone else to work to be in the ideal state on September 23 and 25. Several players are going to arrive late, but the teams that play against us in that Preliminary Phase are going to be more grounded because they do not have So many internationals and yes many American players, I don’t trust any of them. We are the team to beat, we are the ones with the highest budget, we have a balanced squad… but I don’t trust it“.
The green president is satisfied with the group that has been formed. “The new team has been built with a lot of work. We made a preliminary assessment and from there we were incorporating signings. I think it is an attractive and versatile squad that now has to be converted into a team. It is a total commitment of the sports management agreed by Ibon Navarro: I’ve been excited about many signings, I’m not going to highlight any of them, I don’t want to create any jealousy between them. I don’t know if many people in June would have believed that some of the players we have signed this summer were going to come, some turning down offers from EuroLeague clubs. Summers are very important in basketball and we are excited about this project.”
Most of the players have only signed for one season, with the option of another by the club. López Nieto defends this transfer policy: “Signing players for one year has several aspects. It’s for strategy, so that they earn the renewal with their work. Signing for three years is very nice, but also a risk. If they work, fine. And if not, we will have the option to change them. Blessed be the problem if next summer some “big” comes for one of them. It will be that we have been right and that they have had a good season, “he assured.
Regarding the figure of the coach, there is blind trust in him. “We are convinced of Ibon Navarro’s work. The end of the season was disastrous, but we talked to him and I think he is going to have a magnificent year, both he on the bench and the team on the track,” he said.
This summer many players who are very loved by the fans have left the squad, López Nieto spoke in this regard. “You have to be close to the players, but not be close. Difficult decisions have to be made, like last year. I don’t think there was anyone who thought they were above the club, neither Carlos nor Jaime nor Rubén or Francis. His personal behaviors were excellent, but it was clear that the cycle had ended. There was no harmony, there was no music. It was time to quit. We have tried to be subtle. With Carlos Suarez happened what happened, with Jaime Fernandez there was an offer from the club although he preferred to leave. There was also with Tim Abromaitis. Yannick is loaned to Betis, and Ruben Guerrero has the option to return in the future (2024). Nobody here has the door closed. Even Francis Alonso, who chose to leave without a return option. We have done things with order and convinced.
Regarding the subscriber campaign, the green president is excited. «The subscription campaign is surprising us positively. We came from where we came from and from a great detachment. We are going to be more or less around the figures of 3 years ago. It is very good news. The signings have created a great expectation. We’re going to be above 5,000 for sure, and closer to 6,000. Before the pandemic we were at 5,800. At least we will be in those numbers. We are going to try to create a magical atmosphere in the pavilion. No matter how hard one works, it is the results that lead people. People will feel the magic at Carpena again », he stated.
Finally, López Nieto was ambitious when talking about the objectives: «There are projects more mature than ours. We have to be realists. But our minimums are to be in the Copa del Rey de Badalona and in the playoff for the title. And from there grow. We have to be aware that there are four budgets higher than ours, “he concluded.