Munárriz: “Felipe is the best player in the world"
Alberto Munárriz is looking forward to starting a thrilling international season during which he will play a major role both in his club, Atlètic Barceloneta, and the Spanish national team. He has never considered himself the leader of this new generation of Spanish players, but experts praise him as the man responsible for the recent recovery of Spanish water polo. He will be a player to watch in the upcoming Final Eight and the 33rd LEN European Water Polo Championships Barcelona 2018.
“The season looks great. I’m very excited. I’m looking forward to taking part in the first international competition of the season, the Champions League, in which I’m confident we’ll show a solid performance. The club has signed some excellent players: two rising stars like Nico (Paul) and Álvaro (Granados), who made their debut in 2017, and two established players like Felipe (Perrone) and Josic (Vrlic). That’s why I want the competition to start”, said Munárriz, now one of the key members of the team.
At 23, the player from Navarre, who made its National League debut in 2014, faces now his fifth season at the Barcelona squad. Munárriz is a huge fan of Perrone, whom he considers the “best player in the world right now.” “I feel like I’m going to learn a lot from Felipe and Josic – both coming from Jug, Champions League title-holder – he added -. Felipe is the number one in the world and my biggest inspiration: being able to see him in the water, training and playing is unbelievable. I was younger in his previous stay in the club and didn’t remember how spectacular he is”.
The international player, who is currently studying industrial engineering, does not see himself as a water polo star in spite of the praise he keeps receiving. “To be a star you need to play way better than I do”, he claims. His desire is to “train, play, grow as a player and, above all, learn” to be able to help his club and the national team.
Munárriz’s goal in the Champions is to take the first spot in his group: “If we qualify in the third or fourth place we could face one of the main favorites like Pro Recco and that is a risk we should avoid at all costs”, he states.
When talking about the national team he cannot forget the disappointment of finishing in the ninth place at the World Aquatics Championships this summer: “We feel gutted about Budapest. We didn’t have a good start and eventually finished very frustrated. At home, in Barcelona 2018, we hope to put on a great show and prove what we’re capable of. We have a great team, but the truth is, it was a fairly new project with many new players. Now we’ll have more time to get ready and be confident we can claim a great result in Barcelona.” As with many of his teammates, the Budapest wound is still fresh. “We can’t be over dramatic because it wasn’t that bad, but it was disappointing. The manager bet on a new and risky strategy that didn’t go as planned. When you build a team with so many young players you need some time to adapt, both on a personal and collective level. The Serbians, for instance, have been together since 2009. These things take time. In a club and in a national team.”
Munárriz highlights Croatia’s triumph at the World Championship. “Serbia is outstanding – he points out – but at the end of the day nobody can win every single match, and Croatia was incredible. They followed a blueprint and made everything look easy. It was a well-deserved victory.”
The Atlètic Barceloneta player is very excited to be competing in Barcelona 2018, in front of a home crowd at the Picornell. When thinking about this experience he can’t help mentioning Perrone again, who will “make such a difference.”
The “Chuletón”, the nickname given to him by his teammates, has also some words for his colleagues at the women’s team, whose incredible triumphs he envies. “We feel overjoyed for them – he says – as it should be. We feel envious of what they do, of course, since they take part in tournaments and end up playing finals and semifinals in a fantastic atmosphere. This really gives me hope and makes me want to train and keep improving.”