Both played (1991-96) and coached (2013-2017) Athletic Club, and this Saturday they will come face-to-face for the first time as Barça take on the Basque team
Friends, roommates and now coaches. Despite the many who have made the history of Athletic Club great, there are two names that will never go unnoticed: Valverde and Ziganda. Known as 'Txingurri' and 'Kuko,’ respectively, they formed one of the best forward lines that Athletic had in the 1990s, especially at the time when Heynckes was in charge (1992/93-1993/94). "We had a different player profile, we liked to play the ball with speed. We didn’t have the typical physical characteristics of other years and it was a different way of understanding football,” emphasised former team mate Xabier Eskurza.
"Txingurri and Kuko were great players and they had a lot of weight in the dressing room, and this has now transferred to their coaching,“ said Ander Garitano. "Heynckes gave us a lot of confidence with the ball, we had very offensive players and we played at a spectacular level.”
The German formed the famous rhombus at Athletic; Eskurza, Guerrero and Mendiguren, along with goals from Valverde and Kuko that ensured a number of victories at the old San Mamés. "They were my best years at Athletic,” confirmed Garitano. Andoni Goikoetxea, despite only sharing one season with the two players at Athletic (1995/96), agreed that “in a very good dressing room we achieved a great level. The Txingurri was very smart as a player and now, as a coach, he uses simplicity and discipline meaning that he’s respected wherever he goes."
“Valverde’s job as coach at Athletic was incredible,” Garitano continued. “He made them grow by discovering great players from the squad that have gone on to be very important for the club. He did that while Ziganda was establishing a good base for the academy.”