Asier Del Horno is facing a new chapter in his career. Back at his home club, Athletic Club Bilbao, the Basque defender looks to rejoin the Spanish national team after a long-term injury robbed him of the chance when he was enjoying his best moments at Chelsea and stopped his progression at Valencia. Ambition and self-discipline are the best allies in Del Horno's return to glory.
ESPNsoccernet.es' Lucy Turner tracked down the former Chelsea left-back to find out how his familiar new club is treating him.
Q. How is your return to Athletic Bilbao coming along?
A. I'm fine. Now, after almost a blank year I'm taking everything on. I want to get fit again, get into the rhythm of the competition and start fulfilling my objectives. I want to play games and get my form back and one of my objectives is to return to the Spanish national team.
Q. This season the club has committed itself to Joaquín Caparrós, a very disciplined and enthusiastic coach...
A. Yes. His enthusiasm does us well. The other day against Zaragoza we saw a happy team that the crowd enjoyed watching and that's the formula we want to carry on with. After two years being so low in the league table it's inevitable that it will take a lot of effort and with good football and good sensations we now have to turn that into points.
Q. As well as the arrival of the new coach, the club has signed more players than ever before in recent years...
A. Something had to be done. After two very bad seasons, the change of president, the new arrivals and the new coach, I think the changes will go down well and, little by little, get good results to change the direction of the club. That's what we're looking for, we don't want Athletic to suffer, we want it in the top half of the league table and if we keep it up we can get into the top ten and then think about qualifying for the UEFA Cup.
Q. Do you notice any changes in the club since the time you were there before joining Chelsea and have you changed as a player since then?
A. No, the truth is that things are still the same. People are more united now after the two bad seasons but we're all old friends at the club and know one another well. I hope that, after my time at both Chelsea and Valencia andwith the experience I have gathered, all that shows on the pitch now in every match I play. After winning a league and a cup and playing so many games with Chelsea in the league, cup and then with the Spanish national team, I hope for all that to add to my game.
Q. You must value your recovery after being injured for so long...
A. It wasn't many injuries but just one, a tough one. I had to be very careful with that kind of injury because it's one of the worst a footballer can have when it affects the Achilles tendon. But anyway, now it's time to recover from last season and I have put all thoughts of injuries behind me and I only think about playing, being fit and winning.
Q. Leaving injuries aside, what do you think of your time at Valencia and did you expect to be loaned out?
A. No, I didn't. Since I joined the club last season when I was practically injured I hoped to stay this season at Valencia and experience a different season. But it was the opposite and the best thing to do was to find a way out and play all year. I want to play the full season with Athletic and see what Valencia thinks is the best solution, but I'm very happy to be able to play here.
Q. How have you planned for the season ahead? As a way to return to Valencia in style or earn yourself a permanent place at Athletic Bilbao?
A. For me it's a great thing to be able to play at Valencia. It's one of the big teams in Spanish football and I am a Valencia player right now. My personal objective is to try to play a great season and for Valencia to take me into account and realise that I'm a good player and that I am of use to them.
Q. For a player who has come through Athletic's youth teams it must have been a very pleasant surprise for a club like Chelsea to sign you...
A. Yes. It isn't easy for a youth player, after so many years with the reserves and then having joined the first team, to have such a great club take an interest in you. They made me an offer and I made my decision and it was a great step in my career. Athletic is where I have worked all these years and where I have been able to become an international and where the doors to join Chelsea opened.
Q. Do you consider it as a positive move to have played in such a demanding league?
A. Yes, the Premier League is demanding but I like it. Stadiums are full for every match and the level and rhythm is extremely high. Any player would like to play there. Although I was only there for one season, a short time, I loved it.
Q. What probably surprised you was José Mourinho leaving Chelsea?
A. Yes it did. They phoned me that morning to tell me about it and it surprised me a lot.
Q. I imagine Chelsea's objective is still the Champions League. Do you think they will achieve that this season?
A. Chelsea's objective was the Champions League, the league, the cup, it was everything. In a club like than, everything is an objective, but it's not easy. For as many players you sign, winning the Champions League is very complicated and even if you've prepared the team for three or four seasons it isn't at all easy. It'll be tough for them to win this season, but I hope they do. They're a strong team and I hope we can see a final between Chelsea and Valencia and then may the best team win.