Athletic Bilbao

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Athletic Club
Club Athletic Bilbao logo.svg
Full name Athletic Club[1]
Nickname(s) Los Leones / Lehoiak
(The Lions)
Rojiblancos / Zuri-gorriak
Short name ATH
Founded 1898; 119 years ago (1898)
Ground San Mamés
Ground Capacity 53,289 [2]
President Josu Urrutia
Manager José Ángel Ziganda
League La Liga
2016–17 La Liga, 7th
Website Club home page
Current season

Athletic Club (Basque: Athletic Kluba), also commonly known as Athletic Bilbao (Basque: Bilboko Athletic Kluba / Spanish: Athletic de Bilbao), is a professional football club, based in Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain.[3]

They are known as Los Leones (The Lions) because their stadium was built near a church called San Mamés (Saint Mammes). Mammes was a semi-legendary early Christian thrown to the lions by the Romans. Mammes pacified the lions and was later made a saint.

The club is one of three founding members of the Primera División that have never been relegated from the top division, the others being Real Madrid and Barcelona. Athletic have won La Liga on eight occasions, fourth most in the history of the league. In the table of Copa del Rey titles, Athletic is second only to Barcelona, having won it 24 times (per the team's official records; the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) recognizes 23 victories). The club also has one of the most successful women's teams in Spain, which has won five championships in the Primera División Femenina.

The club is known for its cantera policy of bringing young Basque players through the ranks, as well as recruiting top Basque players from other clubs (like Joseba Etxeberria and Javi Martínez). Athletic's official policy is signing professional players native to or trained in football in the greater Basque Country, including Biscay, Gipuzkoa, Álava and Navarre (in Spain); and Labourd, Soule and Lower Navarre (in France). Since its foundation, Athletic has played exclusively with players meeting the criteria to be deemed as Basque players, and has been one of the most successful teams of La Liga. This can be seen as a unique case in European football; it has gained Athletic both admirers and critics. The club has been praised for promoting home grown players and club loyalty. Athletic is one of only three professional clubs in Spain in La Liga (the others being Real Madrid, and Barcelona) that is not a sports corporation; it is owned and operated by its club members.

Athletic's main rivals are Real Sociedad, against whom it plays the Basque derby, and Real Madrid, due to sport and political rivalry.


Bilbao FC, Athletic Club and Club Bizcaya[edit]

Athletic Club with the first Copa del Rey in 1903.

Football was introduced to Bilbao by two distinct groups of players, both with British connections; British steel and shipyard workers and Basque students returning from schools in Britain. In the late 19th century, Bilbao was a leading port of an important industrial area with iron mines and shipyards nearby. It was the driving force of the Spanish economy and as a result attracted many migrant workers. Among them were miners from the north-east of England, and shipyard workers from Southampton, Portsmouth and Sunderland. The British workers brought with them (as to so many other parts of the world) the game of football. In the early 1890s, these workers came together and formed Bilbao Football Club.

Meanwhile, sons of the Basque educated classes had made the opposite journey and went to Britain to complete their studies in civil engineering and commerce. While in the United Kingdom, these students developed an interest in football and on their return to Bilbao they began to arrange games with British workers. In 1898, students belonging to the Gymnasium Zamacois founded the Athletic Club, using the English spelling. In 1901, a meeting was held in the Café García, which established more formal rules and regulations. In 1902, the two Bilbao clubs formed a combined team, known as Bizcaya, in the first Copa del Rey. They returned with the trophy after defeating Barcelona in the final. This would lead to the eventual merger of the two clubs as Athletic Club in 1903. In the same year, Basque students also formed Athletic Club Madrid; this club later evolved into Atlético Madrid. The club's foundation date is a subject of debate among football historians. The club itself declares 1898, but others claim 1901 or 1903 as the true founding year.

Copa del Rey[edit]

Athletic Club crest of 1913.

The club featured prominently in early Copa del Rey competitions. Following the inaugural win by Club Bizcaya, the newly formed Athletic Bilbao won it again in 1903. In 1904, they were declared winners after their opponents, Club Español de Madrid, failed to turn up. In 1907, they revived the name Club Vizcaya after entering a combined team with Union Vizcaino. After a brief lull, they won the competition again in 1911 and then won it three times in a row between 1914 and 1916. The star of this team was Pichichi, a prolific goalscorer who scored the very first goal in the San Mamés stadium on 21 August 1913 and a hat-trick in the 1915 final. Today, the La Liga top-scorer is declared the Pichichi in his honour.

The first La Liga[edit]

Athletic were not the only Basque team represented in the 1920 squad. Other clubs such as Real Unión, Arenas Club de Getxo and Real Sociedad also provided players. These four clubs were all founding members of La Liga in 1928 and by 1930 they were joined by CD Alavés. This meant that five of the ten clubs in the Primera División of Spain's national league were from the Basque Country. The saying "Con cantera y afición, no hace falta importación", translated as "With home-grown teams and supporters, there is no need for imports", made sense during these early days.

The Fred Pentland Era[edit]

1930-31 La Liga winner team

In 1921, a new British coach, Fred Pentland, arrived from Racing de Santander. In 1923, he led the club to victory in the Copa del Rey. He revolutionised the way Athletic played, favouring the short-passing game. In 1927, he left Athletic and coached Athletic Madrid, Real Oviedo and the Spanish national team. In 1929, he rejoined Athletic and subsequently led the club to La Liga/Copa del Rey doubles in 1930 and 1931. The club won the Copa del Rey four times in a row between 1930 and 1933 and they were also La Liga runners-up in 1932 and 1933. In 1931, Athletic also defeated Barcelona 12–1, the latter's worst-ever defeat.

The league title under Garbutt[edit]

Athletic's success under British coaches continued with the arrival of William Garbutt from Napoli which made it to the top three in the Italian Serie A under his command for the first time in the club's history in 1932–33 and again in 1933–34.[4] He had previously won the scudetto three times with Genoa and as a result arrived in Spain in 1935 as a well-respected coach, despite his reputation being non-existent in his native England. His first season in Spain was a massive success as he managed to win the Liga[5] that year. He had inherited a talented squad which included strikers Guillermo Gorostiza, La Liga's top scorer in 1930 and 1932, and Bata, the top scorer in 1931.[6] The year prior to Garbutt's appointment was not a success for the club; they only managed to finish fourth (in 1934–35) despite having been the 1933–34 winners.

Garbutt set about galvanizing what was an already strong Athletic into action, which included promoting the young Ángel Zubieta to the first team, a player who at 17 years of age went on to become the youngest ever to play for the Spanish national team[4] at the time. Garbutt's first game was a 3–3 draw away at Oviedo on 10 November 1935, but he followed this up the next weekend with a 7–0 victory over Betis Balompié, who were the reigning champions.[7] Garbutt's success continued with a 1–0 victory over Real Madrid on 12 January 1936, a significant victory as the two teams played "cat and mouse" over the following weeks in the race for the title. In the final game of the season, the title was decided when Athletic defeated Oviedo 2–0 at home on 19 April 1936, winning the title just two points clear of Real Madrid.[4] This marked the return to success for the Athletic Club in a season which brought them their fourth title, and where Bata was the second top scorer with 21 goals. In July 1936, a mere three months after the end of the season, football halted due to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. The league did not restart until the 1939–40 season. Athletic Club did not win the title again until 1943 and by that time Garbutt had been exiled by Mussolini's fascists in Italy after having returned to coach Genoa in Serie A.[4]

Atlético Bilbao[edit]

Basque derby of 1944, Real Sociedad vs. Athletic de Bilbao in the Atotxa stadium.

In 1941, the club changed its name to Atlético Bilbao, following a decree issued by Franco, banning the use of non-Spanish language names and scrapping the policy of only letting Basque-born players in the team (see origins of the "grandparent rule"). The same year also saw Telmo Zarra make his debut. Over the next 13 seasons, he went on to score 294 goals in all competitions for Atlético, plus another 20 international goals for Spain in as many games. His 38 goals in the 1950–51 season stood as a record for 60 years before ultimately being broken by Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo. Another great player from this era was José Luis Panizo.

Telmo Zarra, the club's all-time leading goalscorer

In 1943, the club won a double of Liga and Copa del Generalisimo (the new name of the Copa del Rey) and they subsequently retained the Copa in both 1944 and 1945. During the early 1950s, the club featured the legendary forward line of Zarra, Panizo, Rafa Iriondo, Venancio and Agustín Gaínza. They helped the club win another Copa del Generalisimo in 1950. The arrival of coach Ferdinand Daučík improved the club's fortunes further. He led the team to another double in 1956 and to further Copa del Generalisimo victories in 1955 and 1958. In 1956 the club also made their debut in the European Cup, eventually being knocked out by Manchester United.

What helped the club succeed in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s were the strict limits imposed on foreign players. In most cases, clubs could only have three foreign players in its squad, meaning that at least eight local players had to play in every game. While Real Madrid and Barcelona circumvented these rules by playing dual citizens such as Alfredo Di Stéfano, Ferenc Puskás, José Santamaria and Ladislao Kubala, Atlético adhered strictly to their cantera policy, showing little or no flexibility. The 1960s, however, were dominated by Real Madrid, and Atlético only had a single Copa del Rey win in 1969. Like international teams, the club has used the "grandparent rule", allowing the recruitment of some players of Basque descent. This enabled the Barcelona-born Armando Merodio to play for the club. During the 1960s, however, other players such as Jesús María Pereda, Miguel Jones and José Eulogio Gárate were overlooked. Although none of them were Basques by birth, all three grew up in the Basque Country and could be classified as naturalised Basques; Gárate even had Basque parents. On a positive note, the 1960s saw the emergence of a club legend José Ángel Iribar.

Important 1970s-era players Dani (L) and Iribar (R) along with coach Aguirre (C)

The 1970s were not much better, with only another single Copa del Rey win in 1973. In December 1976, before a game against Real Sociedad, Iribar and Sociedad captain Inaxio Kortabarria carried out the Ikurriña, the Basque flag, and placed it ceremonially on the centre-circle – this was the first public display of the flag since the death of Francisco Franco. In 1977, the club reached the final of the UEFA Cup, only losing on away goals to Juventus. By then the Franco regime also ended and the club reverted to using the name Athletic.

The Clemente years[edit]

In 1981, the club appointed Javier Clemente as manager. He soon set about putting together one of the most successful Athletic Bilbao teams in the club's history. Young players from the cantera such as Santiago Urquiaga, Miguel de Andrés, Ismael Urtubi, Estanislao Argote and Andoni Zubizarreta joined veterans Dani and Andoni Goikoetxea. In his first season in charge, Clemente led the team to fourth place in La Liga. In 1983, the club won La Liga and in 1984 they won a La Liga/Copa del Rey double. In 1985 and 1986, Athletic finished third and fourth respectively. Clemente's Athletic acquired notoriety for its aggressive style of play, personified by hard-man Goikoetxea. He favoured two defensive midfielders playing in front of twin centre backs and a sweeper, and as a result, critics regarded his teams as dour but effective. Athletic has failed to win a major trophy since the success of the Clemente era. A succession of coaches that included José Ángel Iribar, Howard Kendall, Jupp Heynckes and Javier Irureta and even a returning Clemente failed to reproduce his success.

The Fernández Era[edit]

One of the most successful Athletic coaches since Clemente's tenure was Luis Fernández, appointed in 1996. In 1998, he led the club to second in La Liga and UEFA Champions League qualification. Fernández benefited from the club adopting a more flexible approach to the cantera. Now anybody could play for Athletic, just as long as they acquired their skills in the Basque Country. Thus, Patxi Ferreira from Salamanca and Biurrun, a Brazilian-born player who immigrated to the region at a young age, played for the club in the late 1980s. Despite this new approach, their definition of a Basque is still open to interpretation, with both Roberto López Ufarte and Benjamín being overlooked despite having Basque parents.

Fernández signed Bixente Lizarazu (the first French-born Basque to join the club),[8] Ismael Urzaiz (from Tudela in southern Navarre but trained at Real Madrid's La Fabrica academy), and José Mari García[9] and Santiago Ezquerro (Osasuna youth graduates born in La Rioja). Athletic also began to recruit players from the canteras of other Basque clubs, leading to allegations of poaching. In 1995, Athletic signed Joseba Etxeberria from regional rivals Real Sociedad, causing considerable bad feeling between the two clubs.[10] Although Lizarazu left after one season, Urzaiz, José Mari and Etxeberria were prominent members of the 1997–98 squad, along with the returning Rafael Alkorta, Ferreira and regular stalwart Julen Guerrero.

21st century[edit]

The "black biennium"[edit]

After Jupp Heynckes' second cycle in charge as manager (2001–2003), and Ernesto Valverde's first (2003–2005), the club was embroiled in a relegation battle during the 2005–06 and 2006–07 seasons. In 2006, top-flight survival was ensured on the 37th match day when Deportivo de La Coruña were beaten at the Estadio Riazor 2–1. Javier Clemente then began his third spell as club coach in 2005, when the club were last in the table. He is widely acknowledged to have brought defensive stability to the team, and so is also credited with having saved the club from relegation. Despite this, he was not left in charge for the 2006–07 season. The 2006–07 season was the worst in the club's history; top-flight survival was ensured on the last match day when Levante were beaten at San Mamés 2–0.

The Caparrós Era[edit]

In the 2008–09 season, Athletic again achieved unspectacular results and finished in mid-table, though they ensured safety from relegation earlier than in the previous campaigns. In the Copa del Rey, however, the team managed to pull through some tough ties, including local rivals Osasuna and a strong Sevilla side, to reach their first final in the competition in 24 years. The match in the city of Valencia against Barcelona was a great occasion for the fans, and though they lost 4–1, the result was no disgrace, as the Barcelona side of that season also proved unbeatable in La Liga and the Champions League.[11] Athletic's reward for their efforts was a place in the 'new' UEFA Europa League tournament for the following campaign.

The 2009–10 season saw Athletic make steady progress in the league and in Europe. Decent home form, including a victory over Real Madrid, led to the team sitting comfortably in the top half of the Liga and qualifying from their Europa League group, although poorer performances away from Bilbao meant that a really successful run never materialised. In 2010, the home games often resulted in draws rather than victories, and this also proved to be the case in the Europa League, where a draw at San Mamés against Anderlecht was followed by a heavy defeat in Belgium.[12] Ultimately a promising season delivered little, with Athletic finishing eighth, just outside of the European places. Young stars Javi Martínez, Markel Susaeta and Óscar de Marcos performed well, if inconsistently, providing for main striker Fernando Llorente, while 16-year-old forward Iker Muniain made a successful breakthrough into the squad. At the other end of the career scale, 500-game man Joseba Etxeberria retired after 15 seasons at the club, and Francisco Yeste, who had also played over 300 games, left rather abruptly at the end of the campaign.

The 2010–11 season started positively, with Llorente scoring several times in early games. The team eventually achieved qualification for the Europa League with one match remaining, in 6th place. A defensive crisis led to Borja Ekiza from the B squad being drafted at centre-half, and he retained his place with solid performances. Teenager Iker Muniain started almost every match, and Jon Aurtenetxe claimed the starting place at left-back before a bad injury finished his season early. The signing of Ander Herrera was agreed although he elected to stay with his club Real Zaragoza until the summer as they battled against relegation.

The Bielsa era[edit]

Óscar de Marcos in Moscow

Prior to the 2011–12 season, Athletic's members held their latest presidential election, with incumbent Fernando García Macua defeated by former player Josu Urrutia. One of Urrutia's election pledges had been to bring in former Argentina and Chile head coach Marcelo Bielsa, and he fulfilled this promise.[13][14] Joaquín Caparrós left as his contract expired, having improved Athletic's stature during his stewardship. Bielsa joined with a reputation for using unconventional formations and tactics. Several players began the campaign playing in unfamiliar positions, including World Cup-winning midfielder Javi Martínez, deployed as a ball-playing central defender[15] and Óscar de Marcos, used in several matches at left-back despite being known as a midfielder.[16]

Initial results were not good and new signing Ander Herrera was injured. The players began to adjust as the season progressed and produced a strong run of autumn form, finishing top of their Europa League group ahead of Paris Saint-Germain.[17] They defeated and defeated Lokomotiv Moscow in the last 32.

Athletic then drew Manchester United and won 3–2 in the first leg at Old Trafford,[18] going on to knock the three-time European champions out of the tournament with an impressive 2–1 victory at home.[19] Fernando Llorente and Óscar de Marcos each scored in both legs. In the quarter-final, they travelled to Schalke 04 of Germany and won the first leg 4–2, despite being 2–1 down on 72 minutes after a Raúl brace.[20] Athletic drew 2–2 in the second leg,[21] going through to the semi-finals to face Sporting CP. They lost the first leg in Portugal 2–1 after initially taking the lead, but managed to beat Sporting 3–1 at home with goals by Markel Susaeta, Ibai Gómez and the winner from Llorente in the 89th minute in front of a fervent home crowd which edged them through to the final, 4–3 on aggregate.[22]

Athletic Bilbao fans in Bucharest before the Europa League final

In their first European final since 1977, Athletic could not maintain their momentum and deliver their first trophy in 28 years, as they lost 3–0 to Spanish rivals Atlético Madrid (inspired by the forward play of Radamel Falcao), on 9 May in the final at the Arena Națională in Bucharest.[23]

Although crushed by this disappointment, there was still another chance to claim glory having reached the 2012 Copa del Rey Final by defeating giant-killers Mirandés. Athletic faced the same opponent in the final as in 2009, Barcelona, who proved too strong in another 3–0 result.[24] Being Copa runners-up meant that Athletic qualified for the 2012–13 UEFA Europa League, even though they ended the league season in tenth place.

Going into the 2012–13 season, Athletic went through a period of some turmoil. The Europa League run meant many top players were being scouted by clubs who could offer higher wages and almost definite Champions League football. Fernando Llorente, whose contract was nearing its end, failed to agree a new deal and it then it emerged that fellow Spain international Javi Martínez possibly wanted to leave as well.

With few replacements available under their signing policy, Athletic took a rigid stance on the matter, whereby no offers would be accepted and players would have to meet their inflated contract buyout clause to leave. Martínez did so, joining Bayern Munich before the transfer deadline despite Athletic's refusal to cooperate.[25][26] Llorente failed to secure a move despite the bad blood which had developed with the club management over the situation.[27][28] Marcelo Bielsa also had a major disagreement with the contractors working on improvements to the Lezama training ground. Experienced striker Aritz Aduriz returned from Valencia for a third spell, while winger David López departed.

With this backdrop of uncertainty Athletic began their season with poor results. The possession football did not lead to enough goals scored without the presence of Llorente and the Bielsa tactic of using players regarded as midfielders in defence to boost the overall technique level of the team backfired as opponents created chances with ease.

They were eliminated from the Europa League group stage, failing to beat debutants Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona of Israel at home, and there was further embarrassment as they were knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Basque club Eibar of the third tier. Relegation was a threat until a decent run towards the end of the season, and the final league game at the "old" San Mamés ended in a 0–1 defeat to Levante. Athletic would soon be playing in a new stadium, San Mamés Barria, albeit in a partially completed state.

Bielsa promoted young French defender Aymeric Laporte into the side as a potential replacement for Fernando Amorebieta and he later signed a long-term contract with the club. Fernando Llorente, who played only a peripheral role,[29] eventually completed a free transfer to Juventus.[30][31]

The Valverde era[edit]

The 'new' San Mamés in a partially completed state in 2013

With the departures of manager Marcelo Bielsa, forward Fernando Llorente and defender Fernando Amorebieta, Athletic looked to replace them in the transfer market. They would begin by replacing Bielsa with former player Ernesto Valverde, who had had a previous spell as manager at the club. They quickly moved to sign Beñat from Real Betis to reinforce the midfield, while also picking up two defenders in Xabier Etxeita and Mikel Balenziaga. Finally, to give the club another, more viable attacking option in tandem with Aritz Aduriz, they signed striker Kike Sola from Osasuna. With these reinforcements, as well as youth breakouts such as Aymeric Laporte and Jonás Ramalho, Athletic looked to have a bounceback-season.

Ernesto Valverde at a Champions League press conference

With a very successful 2013–14 campaign, which included a 1–0 victory over Barcelona, they finished fourth in the league, meaning a new exciting UEFA Champions League campaign. Stars Aritz Aduriz and Ander Herrera shone, meaning the summer would be full of begging suitors for their players, and indeed, the summer transfer market began with a bid for Herrera; a €36 million deal was finalized in June 2014 with Manchester United.[32][33]

In the first weeks of the 2014–15 season, Athletic had a triumphant first full-capacity match in the new San Mamés as they defeated Napoli to qualify for the Champions League group stage,[34] however they could only finish 3rd behind FC Shakhtar Donetsk and FC Porto[35] and were then knocked out of the Europa League by Torino.[36] Athletic reached the final of the Copa del Rey, but once again lost to Barcelona, 3–1.[37] In addition to qualifying for the subsequent Europa League as cup finalists (the final season in which this would be the case), Athletic qualified for the 2015 Spanish Super Cup as under the new Spanish Super Cup format, the runner-up of the Copa del Rey participates, rather than the runner-up of La Liga. The reserves at Bilbao Athletic won promotion to the Segunda División for the first time in 19 years.[38]

Beginning the 2015–16 season in the first leg of the Super Cup on 14 August 2015 at San Mamés, Athletic historically defeated Barcelona 4–0, with Aritz Aduriz scoring a hat-trick. In the return leg at Camp Nou, Athletic hung on with a 1–1 draw to win their first trophy since 1984.[39][40] Aduriz continued to score freely throughout the season, finishing with 36 goals in all competitions; this form earned him a place in the Spain squad for Euro 2016 along with clubmate Mikel San José. Other strong performances, notably from youngsters Sabin Merino, Iñigo Lekue and Iñaki Williams and new signing Raúl García contributed to a strong 5th-place finish in the league.

In Europe, Athletic won their group in the Europa League and advanced to the quarter-finals where they were only defeated on penalties by the holders and eventual repeat winners Sevilla FC. Long-serving club captain Carlos Gurpegui retired from playing[41] to become a member of the coaching staff, and Bilbao Athletic were relegated back to the Segunda División B after just one season.[42]

San Mamés exterior at night

The 2016–17 season produced solid results with an almost unchanged squad, although youth graduates Yeray Álvarez and Kepa Arrizabalaga established themselves in the team. A run of four wins in September led to Valverde receiving the La Liga Manager of the Month award for the period. Overall, good home form (43 points) but poor away results (20 points) meant that Champions League qualification was never a realistic possibility. A keen contest for the Europa League places was fought with Villarreal, Real Sociedad and Eibar, until the latter fell out of the running after the meeting at Ipurua was settled by a stoppage-time winner from Raúl García. That victory was one of six in seven games for Athletic in April, however only one point was collected from the final three fixtures in May, while on the last matchday Villarreal got the win they needed for 5th place and Real Sociedad scored a last-minute equaliser in their match, taking the 6th spot by one point. Athletic had to await the outcome of the 2017 Copa del Rey Final to determine if they would compete in continental football the following season - that match was won by Champions League qualifiers Barcelona,[43] and the last Europa League berth therefore passed to Athletic (until a rule change a few years before,[44] it would have gone to cup runners-up Alavés).

In the cups, involvement in the Copa del Rey ended in familiar fashion with elimination by Barcelona (for the sixth time in ten seasons, including three finals). A highlight in the Europa League was Aduriz scoring all Athletic's goals in a 5–3 home win over Genk, a competition record,[45] but despite a 100% home record in the tournament, a loss to APOEL was suffered in the first knockout round due to a weak away performance.

Veteran goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz, who had still been first choice at the start of the season, was allowed to leave at the end of his contract, having played nearly 400 games in his 10-year-spell.[46] As the season reached its conclusion, on 23 May the club announced that Ernesto Valverde would be leaving his position, bringing to a close his four-year cycle at the helm.[47] The following day it was confirmed that his successor would be former player José Ángel Ziganda, moving up from Bilbao Athletic, on an initial two-year contract.[48] Valverde was subsequently appointed the new manager of Barcelona.[49]

The Ziganda era[edit]

Ziganda's spell in charge, controlling a squad which was virtually unchanged from the previous year, would begin with the third qualifying round for the 2017–18 UEFA Europa League, with Athletic facing FC Dinamo București, a team they had never previously met in European competition.

Club colours[edit]

Athletic's team champions of 1921 Copa del Rey

Athletic began playing in an improvised white kit, but in the 1902–03 season, the club's first official strip became half-blue, half-white shirts similar to those worn by Blackburn Rovers, which were donated by Juan Moser. Later, a young student from Bilbao named Juan Elorduy, who was spending Christmas 1909 in London, was charged by the club to buy 25 new shirts, but was unable to find enough. Waiting for the ship back to Bilbao and empty handed, Elorduy realised that the colours of the local team Southampton matched the colours of the City of Bilbao, and bought 50 shirts to take with him. Upon arriving in Bilbao, the club's directors decided almost immediately to change the team's strip to the new colours, and since 1910, Athletic Club have played in red and white stripes. Of the 50 shirts bought by Elorduy, half were then sent to Atlético Madrid, which had originally begun as a youth branch of Athletic. Before the switch from blue and white to red and white, only one other team wore red and white, Sporting de Gijón, since 1905.[50][51]

Athletic were one of the last major clubs who did not have the logo of an official sponsor emblazoned on their kit. In the UEFA Cup and the Copa del Rey of 2004–05, the shirt sported the word "Euskadi" in green in exchange for hundreds of thousands of euros from the Basque Government[52] (Red, white and green are the Basque colours). This policy was changed in 2008, when Athletic made a deal with the Biscay-based Petronor oil company[53] to wear their logo in exchange for over €2 million. In 2011, Athletic revealed a new away kit that was inspired by the Basque flag. The Kutxabank logo now adorns the front of Athletic's kits.


Athletic's shield has incorporated the escutcheons of Bilbao and Biscay. From the shield of Bilbao, it takes the bridge and the church of San Anton, and the wolves from the powerful Haro family, who were lords of Biscay and founders of Bilbao in 1300. From the shield of Biscay it takes Guernica's tree and the cross of San Andrés. Its first documentary record dates from 1922.

Among its history, the shield of the club has been developing and changing in form. So, the first official shield was a blue circle with the letters A and C in the middle. The second one was from 1910, that was the red and white flag with a white square in the left side, in which there are the initials of the club. The third one, from 1913, was also a red and white flag, but in this case surrounding a platoon. The first version of the actual shield is from 1922, it still was a really simple version that was changing of form with the years until having three different versions. Finally, in 1941 the first version of the current shield was created, but the name "Atlético Bilbao" was used when Generalissimo Francisco Franco outlawed all non-Spanish names during his fascist reign. In 1970, the club added colors to the shield and recovered the original English "Athletic Club" name. In 2008, the shape of the shield was slightly altered and a new "Athletic Club" typeface was introduced.


Current squad[edit]

As of 22 July 2017[54]

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Position Player
1 Spain GK Kepa Arrizabalaga
2 Spain DF Eneko Bóveda
3 Spain DF Enric Saborit
4 France DF Aymeric Laporte
5 Spain DF Yeray Álvarez
6 Spain MF Mikel San José
7 Spain MF Beñat
8 Spain MF Ander Iturraspe (2nd captain)
9 Spain FW Kike Sola
10 Spain MF Iker Muniain (3rd captain)
11 Spain FW Iñaki Williams
12 Spain FW Asier Villalibre
13 Spain GK Iago Herrerín
14 Spain MF Markel Susaeta (captain)
15 Spain DF Iñigo Lekue
No. Position Player
16 Spain DF Xabier Etxeita
17 Spain MF Mikel Rico
18 Spain DF Óscar de Marcos
19 Spain FW Sabin Merino
20 Spain FW Aritz Aduriz
21 Spain MF Mikel Vesga
22 Spain MF Raúl García
24 Spain DF Mikel Balenziaga
Spain GK Unai Simón
Spain DF Unai Núñez
Spain MF Iñigo Córdoba
Spain MF Unai López
Spain MF Ager Aketxe
Spain FW Gorka Santamaría

Out on loan[edit]

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Position Player
Spain GK Álex Remiro (on loan to Huesca until 30 June 2018)
Spain DF Markel Etxeberria (on loan to Numancia until 30 June 2018)
Spain DF Urtzi Iriondo (on loan to Granada until 30 June 2018)


The current board is chaired by Josu Urrutia, consultant by profession, whose candidacy was successful during the election in July 2011, succeeding under the previous president, Fernando García Macua. Those elections involved the current president and Urrutia, of which the latter emerged victorious. There were a total of 22,176 votes, which accounted for 65.49% share of the voting members, reaching the maximum participation of the history of the Athletic. Urrutia was the winner with 12 057 votes (54.36%), while his rival in the polls, García Macua, garnered 9,796 (44.17%). Likewise, 165 (0.74%) members voted blank, and 158 (0.71%) remaining votes were considered invalid.[55]

The board of the Athletic Club is composed of the following directors:[56]

  • President: Josu Urrutia.
  • Vice-President: José Ángel Iribar.
  • Secretary: Javier Aldazabal.
  • Vice-Secretary: Jon Muñoz Iñurrategi.
  • Treasurer: Izaskun Larrieta.
  • Counter: Alberto Uribe-Echevarria.
  • Members: Xabier Pérez, Silvia Muriel, Laura Martínez, Borja López, Yolanda Lázaro, Ángel Mari Gorostidi, Jokin Garatea, Juan Arana, Ramón Alkorta.


Dates Name
1910–11 England Mr. Shepherd [57]
1914–16 England Billy Barnes
1916–19 No coach
1920 – May 1921 England Billy Barnes
May 1921 – 1 December 1921 England Mr. Burton
3 December 1921 – 20 March 1922 Spain Juan Arzuaga
22 March 1922 – 30 June 1925 England Fred Pentland
1 July 1925 – 30 June 1926 England Ralph Kirby
1 July 1926 – 30 June 1928 Hungary Lippo Hertzka
1 July 1928 – 30 June 1929 Spain Máximo Royo
1 July 1929 – 30 June 1933 England Fred Pentland
1 July 1933 – 28 August 1935 Spain Patricio Caicedo
28 August 1935 – 15 January 1936 Spain José María Olabarría
15 January 1936 – 30 June 1936 England William Garbutt
1938 – 10 November 1939 Spain Pedro Birichinaga
15 November 1939 – 30 June 1940 Spain Roberto Etxebarria
1 July 1940 – 10 November 1947 Spain Juan Urkizu
11 November 1947 – 30 June 1949 England Harry Bagge
1 July 1949 – 30 June 1952 Spain José Iraragorri
1 July 1952 – 30 June 1954 Spain Antonio Barrios
1 July 1954 – 30 June 1957 Czechoslovakia Ferdinand Daučík
1 July 1957 – 30 June 1958 Spain Baltasar Albéniz
Dates Name
1 July 1958 – 20 December 1960 Brazil Martim Francisco
20 December 1960 – 30 June 1962 Spain Juan Antonio Ipiña
1 July 1962 – 30 June 1963 Spain Ángel Zubieta
1 July 1963 – 30 June 1964 Spain Juan Otxoantezana
1 July 1964 – 30 June 1965 Spain Antonio Barrios
1 July 1965 – 25 October 1968 Spain Agustín Gaínza
25 October 1968 – 30 June 1969 Spain Rafael Iriondo
1 July 1969 – 15 November 1971 England Ronnie Allen
15 November 1971 – 30 June 1972 Spain Salvador Artigas
1 July 1972 – 30 June 1974 Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Milorad Pavić
1 July 1974 – 30 June 1976 Spain Rafael Iriondo
1 Ju1y 1976 – 30 June 1979 Spain Koldo Aguirre
1 July 1979 – 15 September 1980 Austria Helmut Senekowitsch
15 September 1980 – 30 June 1981 Spain Iñaki Sáez
1 July 1981 – 20 January 1986 Spain Javier Clemente
20 January 1986 – 30 June 1986 Spain Iñaki Sáez
1 July 1986 – 30 June 1987 Spain José Ángel Iribar
1 July 1987 – 12 November 1989 England Howard Kendall
13 November 1989 – 30 June 1990 Spain Txetxu Rojo
1 July 1990 – 17 March 1991 Spain Javier Clemente
17 March 1991 – 25 February 1992 Spain Iñaki Sáez
25 February 1992 – 30 June 1992 Spain Jesús Aranguren
Dates Name
1 July 1992 – 30 June 1994 Germany Jupp Heynckes
1 July 1994 – 19 March 1995 Spain Javier Irureta
20 March 1995 – 30 June 1995 Spain José María Amorrortu
1 July 1995 – 17 March 1996 Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Dragoslav Stepanović
18 March 1996 – 30 June 1996 Spain José María Amorrortu
1 July 1996 – 30 June 2000 France Luis Fernández
1 July 2000 – 30 June 2001 Spain Txetxu Rojo
1 July 2001 – 30 June 2003 Germany Jupp Heynckes
1 July 2003 – 30 June 2005 Spain Ernesto Valverde
1 July 2005 – 31 October 2005 Spain José Luis Mendilibar
31 October 2005 – 30 June 2006 Spain Javier Clemente
1 July 2006 – 27 November 2006 Spain Félix Sarriugarte
28 November 2006 – 18 June 2007 Spain Mané
1 July 2007 – 30 June 2011 Spain Joaquín Caparrós
7 July 2011 – 30 June 2013 Argentina Marcelo Bielsa
1 July 2013 – 25 May 2017 Spain Ernesto Valverde
25 May 2017 - Spain José Ángel Ziganda

Kit evolution[edit]

1903 1910 1913 1950 1970 1982 1996 2004 2015
Athletic kit1903.png Athletic kit1910.png Athletic kit1913.png Athletic kit1950.png Athletic kit1975.png Athletic kit1980.png Athletic kit1990s.png Athletic kit2000s.png

Shirt sponsors and manufacturers[edit]

Period[58] Kit manufacturer[58] Shirt sponsor[58]
1982–1990 Adidas None
1990–1999 Kappa
1999–2001 Adidas
2001–2008 100% Athletic
2008–2009 Petronor
2009–2013 Umbro
2013–2015 Nike[nb 1]
2015–2017 Kutxabank
2017-2023 New Balance[60]
  1. ^ The English-based kit manufacturer Umbro took responsibility for supplying the team in 2009, having agreed a long term contract which expires in 2017.[59] However, since Nike sold subsidiary Umbro, the kits will be manufactured by Nike from season 2013–14 onwards.


Men's football[edit]


Women's football[edit]


Season League Cup[65] Europe Other Comp. Top scorer[66]
Div Pos P W D L F A Pts Name(s) Goals
2012–13 1D 12th 38 12 9 17 44 65 45 R32 Europa League GS Aritz Aduriz 18
2013–14 1D 4th 38 20 10 9 66 39 70 QF Aritz Aduriz 18
2014–15 1D 7th 38 15 10 13 42 41 55 RU Champions League GS Europa League R32 Aritz Aduriz 26
2015–16 1D 5th 38 18 8 12 58 45 62 QF Europa League QF Supercopa de España W Aritz Aduriz 36
2016–17 1D 7th 38 19 6 13 53 43 63 R16 Europa League R32 Aritz Aduriz 24

Last updated: 2015
Pos. = Position; Pl. = Match played; W = Win; D = Draw; L = Lost; GS = Goal Scored; GA = Goal Against; Pts = Points
Colors: Gold = winner; Silver = runner-up; Cyan = ongoing

Champion Runner-up Champions League classified Europa League classified Zarra Trophy

Statistics and records[edit]


Institutional information:

  • Associates: 44,560
  • Official fans groups: 452.
  • Budget: 95,879,400 (2016–17 season).
  • TV income: €71,000,000 (2016–17 season)

Best positions

  • Seasons in La Liga: all.
  • Best position in La Liga: 1st (8 times)
  • Worst position in La Liga: 17th (once).
  • Historical position in the ranking of La Liga: 5th[67]
  • Best position in UEFA Champions League / European Cup: Quarter Final (1957)
  • Best position in UEFA Europa League / UEFA Cup: Runner-up (1977, 2012)
  • Shares in UEFA competitions: 32 (until 2016–17 season)
5 Participations in the UEFA Champions League / European Cup
18 Participations in the UEFA Europa League / UEFA Cup
2 Participations in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup
6 Participations in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup
1 Participations in the UEFA Intertoto Cup

Goals records

  • Most goals scored in one match home: Athletic 12 – Barcelona 1 (1930–31).
  • Most goals scored in one match away: Osasuna 1 – Athletic 8 (1958–59).
  • Most goals scored in one match in Copa del Rey: Athletic 12 – Celta Vigo 1 (1946–47)
  • Most goals scored in one match in European competitions: Belgium Standard Liège 1 – Athletic 7 (2004–05).

Players records


  • Together with Real Madrid and Barcelona, Athletic is one of only three teams to have contested all editions of La Liga, without ever having been relegated.[68]
  • In the 1929–30 season, finished the league unbeaten after 18 games.[68]
  • Has the record for the biggest win in La Liga (12–1 to Barcelona, in 1931).[68]
  • Has the record for the biggest win in Copa del Rey (12–1 to Celta Vigo, in 1947).[68]
  • Has the record for the biggest win away to Real Madrid (0–6 in Santiago Bernabéu), Barcelona (0–6 in Camp Nou), Espanyol (1–5) and Osasuna (1–8).[68]
  • Telmo Zarra is the only player in the history of La Liga to be top scorer six times.[68]
  • Zarra is the top scorer in the history of Copa del Rey (81 goals).[68]
  • Gaínza has the record of most goals scored in a single La Liga match (8 goals).[68]
  • Zarra holds the record for most goals in a Copa del Rey final (4 goals).[68]

Stadium information[edit]

Panoramic view of San Mames stadium.

San Mames[edit]

  • Name: San Mamés
  • Nickname: La Catedral (The Cathedral)
  • City: Bilbao
  • Opened: September 2013
  • Capacity: 53,289[2]
  • Beginning construction: 26 May 2010.
  • End construction (partial): September 2013.
  • End construction (total): August 2014.
  • Pitch size: 105 m × 68 m (344 ft × 223 ft)
  • Sports Facilities: Lezama

Lezama Facilities[edit]

The Lezama Facilities is the complex where all of the categories of Athletic train. It was opened in the 1971–72 season, under the presidency of Felix Oráa. At present, facilities include, inter alia, five natural grass fields, a gymnasium, a pediment, a medical center and a residence for young players. Lezama has undergone remodeling since 1995 under the presidency of José María Arrate with the construction of new roads and parking entry and exit able to absorb the large number of vehicles that come every day, and a platform cover bringing greater convenience to fans attending the matches of the youth teams and other youth football teams.

These facilities are located in the municipality of Lezama, approximately ten miles from Bilbao.


The Board has given the green light to the so-called "Lezama Master Plan", which was founded with the purpose of modernizing the structures of both the youth teams and first team. The "Plan" is the result of a rigorous study of the basic needs for the future of the Athletic Club. The work will take place over the course of two to three years and its budget is around €12 million. The Club is committed to consolidate its cantera structure, which is the basis for the future of the Club and in this regard Lezama will be expanded to classrooms for youth work in the lower categories and create an audiovisual department.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ a b "UEFA EURO 2020 Evaluation Report" (PDF). Retrieved 2017-01-23. 
  3. ^ "Official name". Archived from the original on 13 June 2010. Retrieved 3 December 2009. 
  4. ^ a b c d Edgerton, Paul. (2009). William Garbutt. The father of Italian football. Cheltenham, England: Sportsbooks Ltd. pp. 117–124. ISBN 978-1899807826. 
  5. ^ Edgerton (2009), p. 117-124
  6. ^ Edgerton (2009), p. 120-121
  7. ^ Edgerton (2009), p. 121
  8. ^ "The French Basque Country: a rugby heartland with world-class footballers". The Guardian. 8 December 2014. Retrieved 11 June 2017. 
  9. ^ "Entrevista José Mari: "El partido ante el Zaragoza de 98 fue el mas intenso que he jugado" (II)" [José Mari interview: "The game against Zaragoza in 98 was the most intense I played in" (II)] (in Spanish). Sentimiento Athletic. 23 November 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2017. 
  10. ^ Ball, Phil (2001). Morbo: the story of Spanish football (p.37). WSC Books Limited. ISBN 9780954013462. 
  11. ^ "El Barça se corona por aplastamiento" [Barça crowned in a crushing] (in Spanish). Marca. 13 May 2009. Retrieved 18 July 2017. 
  12. ^ "RSC Anderlecht 4-0 Athletic Club (agg: 5-1)". 25 February 2010. Retrieved 18 July 2017. 
  13. ^ Josu Urrutia confirma a Marcelo Bielsa como su entrenador si es presidente (Josu Urrutia confirms Marcelo Bielsa as his manager if he is president); Cadena SER, 30 June 2011 (in Spanish)
  14. ^ Bielsa: "Hay una proporción adecuada entre esfuerzo y creatividad" (Bielsa: "The proportion between effort and creativity is just right"); Marca, 7 July 2011 (in Spanish)
  15. ^ "Javi Martínez sueña con volver al centro del campo pero Bielsa le quiere de central" [Javi Martínez dreams of returning to midfield but Bielsa wants him as a stopper] (in Spanish). El Confidencial. 22 January 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2017. 
  16. ^ De Marcos: "Está bien lo de ser comodín, he jugado más que el año pasado" (De Marcos: "I'm fine with joker role, i've played more than last year"); Canal Athletic, 12 September 2011 (in Spanish)
  17. ^ Athletic attacking prowess puts paid to PSG;, 29 September 2011
  18. ^ Enterprising Athletic stun United at Old Trafford;, 8 March 2012
  19. ^ Athletic see off United with room to spare;, 15 March 2012
  20. ^ Schalke stunned by late Athletic fightback;, 29 March 2012
  21. ^ Athletic stride past Schalke and into semi-finals;, 5 April 2012
  22. ^ Athletic leave it late as Llorente sets up final date;, 26 April 2012
  23. ^ Atkin, John (9 May 2012). "Falcao at double as Atlético march to title". Retrieved 18 July 2017. 
  24. ^ "Barcelona end Guardiola era with Copa del Rey win over Athletic Bilbao". The Guardian. 26 May 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2017. 
  25. ^ "Bayern's record signing Spain international Martinez: I'm very happy". FC Bayern Munich. 29 August 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2017. 
  26. ^ "Javi Martinez joins Bayern Munich". ESPN Soccernet. 29 August 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2017. 
  27. ^ "Llorente walks out of training". ESPN FC. 1 October 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2017. 
  28. ^ "Llorente and Bilbao clash over no-show". ESPN FC. 20 November 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2017. 
  29. ^ "Aduriz eclipsa a Llorente" [Aduriz eclipses Llorente]. Marca (in Spanish). 27 December 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2017. 
  30. ^ "Fernando Llorente to hold talks with Juventus, Athletic Bilbao confirm". The Guardian. 3 January 2013. Retrieved 18 July 2017. 
  31. ^ "Llorente unveiled as a Juve player". Football España. 2 July 2013. Retrieved 18 July 2017. 
  32. ^ "Herrera pays release clause". (Athletic Bilbao). 26 June 2014. Retrieved 18 July 2017. 
  33. ^ "Club statement on Ander Herrera". Manchester United F.C. 26 June 2014. Retrieved 18 July 2017. 
  34. ^ "Aduriz relishing Athletic's group stage adventure". 28 August 2014. Retrieved 18 July 2017. 
  35. ^ "San José shows way for Athletic at Shakhtar". 25 November 2014. Retrieved 18 July 2017. 
  36. ^ "Athletic Bilbao-Torino 2-3: Darmian manda i granata agli ottavi" [Darmian sends the Maroons to the last eighth-finals]. (in Italian). 26 February 2015. Retrieved 18 July 2017. 
  37. ^ "Lionel Messi stars as Barcelona win Copa Del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao". Eurosport. 30 May 2015. Retrieved 18 July 2017. 
  38. ^ "El Bilbao Athletic, a Segunda 19 años después y el Cádiz tendrá que esperar" [Bilbao Athletic, into Segunda 19 years later and Cadiz will have to wait] (in Spanish). La Razón. 28 June 2015. Retrieved 25 May 2017. 
  39. ^ "Barcelona thrashed 4–0 by Bilbao". BBC Sport. 14 August 2015. Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  40. ^ "Barcelona lose Spanish Super Cup to Athletic Bilbao". BBC Sport. 17 August 2015. Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  41. ^ Gurpegui ve "el momento perfecto para dejarlo" (Gurpegui sees this as "the perfect moment to quit");, 11 May 2016 (in Spanish)
  42. ^ "El Bilbao Athletic empata contra Osasuna y pierde la categoría" [Bilbao Athletic draw with Osasuna and lose the category] (in Spanish). El Correo. 15 May 2016. Retrieved 25 May 2017. 
  43. ^ "Barcelona 3-1 Alaves". BBC Sport. 2017-05-27. Retrieved 2017-05-29. 
  44. ^ "Strategic talks in Dubrovnik". 20 September 2013. 
  45. ^ "Athletic 5–3 Genk". 3 November 2016. Retrieved 24 May 2017. 
  46. ^ "Urrutia confirma que Iraizoz no seguirá en el Athletic la próxima temporada" [Urrutia confirms Iraizoz will not be retained for next season] (in Spanish). 4 May 2017. Retrieved 24 May 2017. 
  47. ^ "Ernesto Valverde will not continue as premier team coach". official website. Athletic Bilbao. 23 May 2017. Retrieved 24 May 2017. 
  48. ^ "José Ángel Ziganda, Athletic Club's new manager". official website. Athletic Bilbao. 24 May 2017. Retrieved 25 May 2017. 
  49. ^ "Ernesto Valverde is the new FC Barcelona coach". FC Barcelona. 29 May 2017. Retrieved 29 May 2017. 
  50. ^ Agiriano, Jon. "Los Colores del Siglo". (in Spanish). Retrieved 28 February 2011. 
  51. ^ "Camisetas Inglesas (In Spanish)" (PDF). Athletic Club. Retrieved 28 February 2011. 
  52. ^ La estrenan mañana, Deia daily, 30 November 2004.
  53. ^ El Athletic firma con Petronor un acuerdo para lucir publicidad en su camiseta por 2 millones de euros, Europa Press, 29 July 2008.
  54. ^ "Primer equipo" [First team] (in Spanish). Athletic Bilbao. Retrieved 2 July 2016. 
  55. ^ "Josu Urrutia, nuevo presidente". Retrieved 10 March 2012. 
  56. ^ "Junta Directiva :". Athletic Club. Retrieved 10 March 2012. 
  57. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-05. 
  58. ^ a b c [2]
  59. ^ "Acuerdo con Umbro". Retrieved 10 March 2012. 
  60. ^ "Agreement between Athletic and New Balance". official website. Athletic Bilbao. 22 May 2017. Retrieved 25 May 2017. 
  61. ^ "Spain – Cup 1902". 2000-09-15. Retrieved 2017-01-23. 
  62. ^ Won Copa del Rey and La Liga.
  63. ^ Note:"Eva Duarte Cup" competition was the predecessor of the current "Spanish Supercup", because they face the league champion against the champion of the "Copa del Rey".
  64. ^ The Copa Eva Duarte was only recognized and organized with that name by the RFEF from 1947 until 1953, and therefore Athletic Bilbao's runners-up medal in the "Copa de Oro Argentina" of 1945 is not included in this count.
  65. ^ "Spanish Cup Winners". Archived from the original on 2 January 2010. Retrieved 3 December 2009. 
  66. ^ All goals scored in La Liga, Copa del Rey, Supercopa de España, Copa de la Liga, Copa Eva Duarte, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, UEFA Cup, and Latin Cup matches
  67. ^ Ranking of La Liga
  68. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Athletic Club Records". Retrieved 12 May 2015. 


  1. ^ The number of Copa wins Athletic Club have been credited with is disputed. The 1902 competition was won by Bizcaya, a team made up of players from Athletic Club and Bilbao FC. In 1903 these two clubs merged as Athletic Club. The 1902 cup is on display in the Athletic museum [61] and the club includes it in its own honours list. However LFP and RFEF official statistics do not include this as an Athletic win.

External links[edit]

Official websites