La Liga, 5th
1898, Bilbao, Spain
San Mamés Stadium
Los Leones / Lehoiak (The Lions) Rojiblancos / Zuri-gorriak (Red-Whites)
La Liga, UEFA Europa League
Athletic Club (Basque: Athletic Kluba), also commonly known as Athletic Bilbao (Basque: Bilboko Athletic Kluba), is a professional football club, based in Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain.
- Bilbao FC Athletic Club and Club Bizcaya
- Copa del Rey
- The first La Liga
- The Fred Pentland Era
- The league title under Garbutt
- Atltico Bilbao
- The Clementes years
- The Fernndez Era
- The black biennium
- The Caparrs Era
- The Bielsa era
- The Valverde era
- Club colours
- Current squad
- Out on loan
- Womens football
- San Mames
- Lezama Facilities
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
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
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
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
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
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. 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 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. 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 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. 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. 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.
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 Barcelona's Lionel Messi. Another great player from this era was José Luis Panizo. In 1943, the club won a Liga/Copa del Generalisimo double and they subsequently retained the Copa del Rey 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 (the new name of the Copa del Rey) 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 an Atlético legend José Ángel Iribar. 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 UEFA Cup final, only losing on away goals to Juventus. By then the Franco regime also ended and the club reverted back to using the name Athletic.
The Clemente`s years
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
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, Ismael Urzaiz and José Mari García Lafuente. 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. Although Lizarazu left after one season, Urzaiz, José Mari and Joseba Etxeberria were prominent members of the 1997–98 squad, along with the return of Rafael Alkorta, regular stalwart Julen Guerrero, and Patxi Ferreira.
The "black biennium"
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
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 final 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 expensively assembled Barcelona side of that season also proved unbeatable in La Liga and the Champions League. 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 the San Mamés against Anderlecht was followed by a heavy defeat in Belgium. Ultimately, a promising season delivered little, with Athletic finishing eighth, just outside of the European places. But in comparison to most recent seasons, it was an improvement. 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 senior 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 in the red-and-white shirt, left rather abruptly at the end of the campaign.
Entering into the 2010–11 season, Athletic were looking to build on the previous season and claim a European placing. The season started positively, with Fernando Llorente scoring several times in early games. The team's form, particularly away from home, was not consistent enough for them to mount a challenge for fourth place (Champions League), but similar lapses by other teams meant there was still a chance of qualifying for the Europa League. This was eventually achieved with one match remaining, with Athletic moving clear of early-season successes Espanyol after a series of narrow victories, including 2–1 wins over Basque rivals Osasuna and Real Sociedad in successive weeks. A defensive injury and suspension crisis midway through the season led to Borja Ekiza, previously only a member of the B squad, being drafted in at centre-half, and his performances were solid enough for him to retain his place for the remaining games.
Teenager Iker Muniain also started almost every match, mostly on the left wing, where he could use his trickery to supply Llorente and his support striker Gaizka Toquero. Eighteen-year-old Jon Aurtenetxe also impressed manager Joaquín Caparrós enough to claim the starting place at left-back for the start of the campaign before a bad injury finished his season early. The signing of Spanish under-21 midfielder Ander Herrera was agreed well before the end of the season, although the young star elected to stay with formative club Real Zaragoza as a gesture of respect as they battled against relegation. By the end of the campaign, Athletic had secured a return to European competition by finishing in sixth place.
The Bielsa era
Prior to the start of the 2011–12 season, Athletic Club's members held their latest presidential election, which saw incumbent Fernando García Macua defeated by former long-serving player Josu Urrutia. One of Urrutia's election pledges had been to bring in former Argentina and Chile head coach Marcelo Bielsa to lead the club, and he fulfilled this promise. Joaquín Caparrós left the club with his contract having expired, and having improved Athletic's stature during his stewardship. Bielsa joined having established a reputation for using unconventional formations and tactics, and set about changing Athletic to suit them.Several players began the campaign playing in unfamiliar positions, including World Cup-winning midfielder Javi Martínez, who was deployed as a ball-playing central defender and Óscar de Marcos, who despite being known as a midfielder, was used in several matches at left-back.
Initial results were not consistently good and new signing Ander Herrera was injured. The players began to adjust to the changes as the season progressed, however, and following an away victory at local rivals Real Sociedad, Athletic produced a strong run of autumn form which included wins over Paris Saint-Germain, Osasuna and Sevilla as well as credible draws with Valencia and Barcelona. The team also finished top of their Europa League group and defeated Lokomotiv Moscow in the last 32.
Athletic then drew Manchester United and won 3–2 in the first leg at Old Trafford, going on to knock the three-time European champions out of the tournament with an impressive 2–1 victory at home. 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 after a Raúl brace on 72 minutes. Athletic would go on to draw the second leg against Schalke 2–2, going through to the semi-finals to face Sporting CP with a favourable aggregate score of 6–4. Athletic lost the first leg in Portugal by 2–1 after initially taking the lead, but managed to beat Sporting 3–1 at home after goals by Markel Susaeta, Ibai and the winner from Fernando Llorente in the 89th minute in front of a fervent home crowd edged them through to the final, 4–3 on aggregate.
In their first European final since 1977, and first ever in a single match, Athletic could not maintain their momentum and deliver their first trophy in 28 years, as they lost 3–0 to Spanish rivals Atlético Madrid (who were inspired by the forward play of Radamel Falcao), on 9 May in the final at the Arena Națională in Bucharest.
Although crushed by this disappointment, there was still another chance for Athletic Club to claim glory to match the positive play and results of the unpredictable first season under Marcelo Bielsa. Having reached the 2012 Copa del Rey Final by defeating giant-killers Mirandés, Athletic faced the same opponent as in 2009, Barcelona, who again proved too strong in another 3–0 result. However, finishing as Copa de Rey runners-up meant that Athletic qualified for the 2012–13 UEFA Europa League, even though they ended the season in tenth place.
Prior to the start of the 2012–13 season, Athletic went through a period of some turmoil. Having impressed many observers around the world with their Europa League run, many top players (according to various media rumours) were being scouted by clubs in England, Italy and Germany who, in some cases, could offer higher wages and almost definite Champions League football. In particular, striker Fernando Llorente, whose contract was nearing its end, failed to agree a new deal due to his wage demands (allegedly far higher than the norm at the club, but less than some other top strikers in other leagues), and when his position became unstable, it emerged that fellow Spain international Javi Martínez possibly wanted to leave as well.
With the club's financial position relatively healthy and with few, if any, replacements available under their Basque signing policy, Athletic took a rigid stance on the matter, whereby no offers would be accepted by them and any players wishing to leave would have to meet their inflated contract buyout clause. Martínez did so, joining Bayern Munich before the transfer deadline after the player and the German club agreed to a deal to finance the €40 million release clause, despite Athletic's refusal to cooperate. Llorente, however, failed to secure such a deal and remained an Athletic player at the close of the transfer window, despite the bad blood which had developed between him and the club management over the situation. Martínez and Llorente – arguably the most important players in the previous five seasons – had been forced to train apart from the other players and faced abuse from fans as they sought a move away, which did little to improve team harmony.
The situation was complicated further when Marcelo Bielsa had a major disagreement with the contractors working on improvements to the Lezama club training ground, as he felt they were inadequate, overpriced and behind schedule, thereby undermining his pre-season preparations with the squad. The dispute deteriorated into a physical altercation with the site foreman, followed by Bielsa issuing a statement criticising the work – which the club hierarchy officially distanced themselves from. At one stage, the Argentine coach appeared to have left his position, and although the matter was eventually resolved, it was not the positive atmosphere the club desired as the start of the season approached. Experienced striker Aritz Aduriz returned from Valencia for a third spell at Athletic, but former youth team forward Ismael López was the only other new signing. Along with the enforced sale of Javi Martínez, aging squad players Koikili, Igor Gabilondo and Aitor Ocio had departed at the end of the season, and they were followed by winger David López and defender Ustaritz on the last day of the transfer window.
With this backdrop of uncertainty, along with injuries to several first-team players, it was perhaps not surprising that Athletic began their season with some poor results. The possession football was not leading to enough goals scored without the presence of Llorente, albeit Aduriz proving a capable deputy, and the Bielsa tactic of using players regarded as midfielders in defence to boost the overall technique level of the team was seen to backfire somewhat as opponents created chances with alarming ease. In their first eight competitive games (four in La Liga and four in the Europa League preliminaries), Athletic scored 21 goals but conceded 18. Promising midfielder Iñigo Ruiz de Galarreta also had his season ended early with an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
Although Athletic managed to reach the Europa League group stage, they were eventually eliminated after only picking up a single point in the first four games, with even that point being an underwhelming home draw against Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona of Israel, who were making their debut at that stage. In the Copa del Rey, Athletic again suffered embarrassment at home as they were defeated in their opening tie by Eibar, who that season (as in many others down the years) were competing in the same domestic league competition (Segunda B) as Athletic's own subsidiary team, Bilbao Athletic. Despite the tie being played over two legs, Athletic could only draw twice with Eibar and went out on away goals, meaning that the last cup game in the historic San Mamés stadium was an ignominious elimination at the hands of a far smaller Basque team. Ironically, a former Bilbao Athletic player, Mikel Arruabarrena, scored the goal which eliminated his boyhood club. The previous week, the final European game at the stadium against Sparta Prague had petered out into a 0–0 draw.
Although now left with only the league to concentrate on, Athletic's form remained erratic. Although they continued to dominate possession and create chances a lack of cutting edge, a tendency to be caught on the break by teams who were now familiar with the system Bielsa was using and fatigue caused by the system itself resulted in more easy goals conceded and more points dropped. At San Mamés, a good win over Atlético Madrid was preceded by defeats to Real Zaragoza and Rayo Vallecano and followed by further losses to Espanyol (0–4) and Real Sociedad, and only subsequent wins over Osasuna, Valencia and Granada during March eased fears of relegation to some extent. With established defender Fernando Amorebieta first injured, then out of form and hinting at a move away from the club, Bielsa promoted young French defender Aymeric Laporte into the side as a potential replacement. His inexperience led to some mistakes (and two red cards), although his speed and skill on the ball suggested a bright future, and Laporte signed a long-term contract with the club.
Athletic managed to go five games unbeaten during April and early May (including drawing with Barcelona), and due to inconsistent results from rivals as well as other circumstances (see 2012–13 La Liga table notes), there was a possibility that they could still qualify for Europe again despite all the difficulties of the season. However, the final league game at the "old" San Mamés ended in a 0–1 defeat to Levante, and that match arguably summed up the season: potentially significant and offering hope of success with the backdrop of traditional pride in an iconic arena which would soon be gone, but eventually concluding with a disappointing and dispiriting outcome which smacked of underachievement, given the excitement of the previous season and the consensus both within the club and among the wider footballing community that this was a squad of players and a coach who could have performed better.
The bright note in the campaign belonged to Bilbao Athletic, whose young players performed well throughout the season and challenged for promotion to the Liga Adelante, raising hopes that some of that squad may be able to offer more than emergency backup to the first team for the following season. The one certainty would be that Athletic would be playing in a new stadium, San Mamés Barria, albeit in a partially completed state.
Fernando Llorente, who played only a peripheral role throughout his final season and showed only glimpses of his dominant play of the previous years, eventually completed a free transfer to Juventus after the Athletic board continuously dismissed the option of any immediate transfer involving a fee during the winter transfer window. Fernando Amorebieta, who also played an insignificant role in the latter portion of the campaign, arranged a similar move to Fulham.
The Valverde era
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.
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.
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, however they could only finish 3rd behind FC Shakhtar Donetsk and FC Porto and were then knocked out of the Europa League by Torino. Athletic reached the final of the Copa del Rey, but once again lost to Barcelona, 3–1. 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.
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. 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 to become a member of the coaching staff, and Bilbao Athletic were relegated back to the Segunda División B after just one season.
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.
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 (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 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 squadAs of 1 February 2017
Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
Out on loan
Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
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.
The board of the Athletic Club is composed of the following directors:
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
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.