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Athletic Bilbao and their transfer policy

Athletic Bilbao’s 3-2 away win over English champions Manchester United on Thursday in the Europa League has left me pondering, how are Bilbao successful with their transfer policy? And how would English teams cope with their policy?

Athletic Bilbao are a team in the Basque Country in Northern Spain. However, many citizens of the Basque Country want to become independent from Spain. Therefore, Athletic Bilbao only sign players that are from the Basque Country or have some form of Basque heritage.

Bilbao are one of only three teams in Spain to have never been relegated from La Liga with the others being Barcelona and Real Madrid. This year Athletic Bilbao have also reached the Copa del Rey final where they will face Barcelona. In their history they have won La Liga 8 times and the Copa del Rey 23 times.

Their future looks bright too. Players like Iker Muniain, 19 years-old and Javi Martinez, 23 years-old have shown that they can perform in La Liga. The powerful Fernando Llorente is always going to be a threat, and his tally of 21 goals in 36 matches in all competitions is an impressive one.

If English teams were to implement the same policy as Bilbao the league table would look certainly look very different. Money wouldn’t have such an important rule and as a result teams would not be trying to outspend one another to ‘buy the league’. Football would be a completely different game.

About Dan Bonser


  1. Steven says:

    Some very good points being made in this article Dan. I sense that the major factor in Bilbao success comes from the tremendous pride the players possess from wearing the red & white of their regions team. To the outside world this may look slightly prehistoric in terms of footballing development, but if the Bilbao performance against Manchester United is anything to go by then i would continue in the same vein. Because as the saying goes…’If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it!’

  2. Dave Foster says:

    I’ve been very drawn to them over the past few years with their interesting policies and am a big fan of Bielsa. Their defeat of MUFC midweek came as no surprise to me – and that’s coming from a United fan!

    Speaking of pride for the shirt, Barcelona has some similarities with its Catalan heritage, but obviously not as strict. You can almost feel the pull of their shirt on players who are away from it, think Fabregas, Pique… they were always going to end up (back) there, for the pride of the shirt. And if they enjoy such success breeding regional youngsters like Xavi, Iniesta, Pique etc – who’s to say Athletic cannot do the same? Bielsa will make them a force in La Liga.

  3. Dan Bonser says:

    I agree with with you both on the fact they are proud to play which is never a bad thing. Ive followed Bilbao for a few years too and develped a bit of a soft spot for them. I like the way they play, its very English with a tall centre forward. Im too a united fan and also I knew they would get something from the game.

  4. Lee Stone says:

    i think labelling Bilbao as ‘very English’ is wrong, . The team play in a spanish way…. The way they dictated the tempo at differrent times during the two legs suggests that its a spanish way, pressing nd then ball retention! name me an english club that can do that……If you noticed in the first leg i think you’d find that Llorente is not an average target man, but likes to playoff and arond the attacking midfielders.and can play sneaky passes too! for his goal, he was the one jinking around on the edge of the area, slid a pass out and got on the end of the cross. The Worst saying in british football……’HES GOT A GREAT TOUCH FOR A BIG MAN’ .The height of a player determines how good his technicall ability is?? no thanks! one of the wost touches ive seen in the past few months is Raphael, 5’6? but anyway, my point. Athletico Bilbao remind me of no English team at all…. technically or tactically, the closest ive seen playing in a keep ball way is Swansea City. Who are welsh.

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