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Athletic Club is a football club from Bilbaomarker in Biscay, Basque Countrymarker, Spainmarker. The club has played in the Primera División of La Liga since its start in 1928. They have won La Liga on eight occasions. In the historical classification of La Liga Athletic Bilbao took 3rd place behind Real Madrid and Barcelona, and along with both of them are the only clubs which have never been relegated from La Liga. The club also has a women's team, which has won 4 championships in the Spanish Superliga.

They are known as the Los Leones (the lions) because their stadium was built near a church called San Mamés (Saint Mammes). Mammes was an early Christian thrown to the lions by the Romans. The lions refused to eat Mames and he was later made a saint. The San Mames Stadiummarker is hence nicknamed "the football cathedral".

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 or Javi Martínez). Athletic official policy is signing professional players native to the greater Basque Country, including Biscay, Guipúzcoamarker, Álavamarker and Navarremarker (in Spain); and Labourd, Soule and Lower Navarre (in France). Still, in recent times, this policy has been somewhat relaxed and players with direct Basque ancestry or with no Basque ancestry but formed in Basque clubs have played for the team. This has gained Athletic both admirers and critics. The club has been praised for promoting home grown players and club loyalty. On the other hand, Athletic is one of only four professional clubs in Spain, with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Osasuna, which is not a sports corporation, so that ownership of the club lies in its associates (socios).


Bilbao FC, Athletic Club and Team Bizkaia

Football was introduced to Bilbaomarker by two distinct groups of players, both with Britishmarker connections; British steel and shipyard workers and Basque students returning from schools in Britain.

In the late 1800s Bilbao was a leading port at the heart 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 Englandmarker, and shipyard workers from Sunderlandmarker, Southamptonmarker and Portsmouthmarker. 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 Britainmarker 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 Cafe Garcia which established more formal rules and regulations.

In 1902 the two Bilbao clubs formed a combined team, known as Club Vizcaya, in the first Copa del Rey. They returned with the trophy after defeating FC Barcelona in the final. This would lead to the eventual merger of the two clubs as Athletic Club de Bilbao in 1903. In the same year Basque students also formed Athletic Club de 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 is the true founding year. There is also a strong case for 1903.

Club colours

Equally debated, is the origin of the club colours. Although their first colours were blue and white stripes, in 1910 they switched to red and white stripes. There are three schools of thought about why this occurred. The most common theory is that they were changed out of deference to Sunderland and Southampton, cities where the original British founders were from. [12282]. Another is that an Athletic member was sent to Britainmarker to buy a batch of blue and white tops but could not find any and returned with red and white tops instead. Perhaps the most credible theory, however, is that red and white striped tops were the cheapest stripes to make because the same combination was used to make bed mattresses. The left over cloth was easily converted into football shirts. Although both Athletic Bilbaomarker and Atlético Madrid started out with blue and white stripes, the discovery of a cheaper option probably persuaded them to change. The Madridmarker club did it first and they became known as Los Colchoneros - the mattress makers. Before the switch from blue & white to red & white, only one other team wore red & 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 2004-2005, the shirt sported the word "Euskadimarker" 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 for the three seasons starting from 2008, with Athletic playing with the logo of the Biscay-based Petronor oil company on their shirts in exchange for over 2 million euros.

Copa del Rey

The club featured prominently in early Copa del Rey competitions. Following the inaugural win by Club Vizcaya, 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 August 21, 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 Alaves. 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.

El Bombín

In 1921 a new coach, Fred Pentland arrived from Racing 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 Spain. In 1929 he rejoined Athletic and he subsequently led Athletic 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 FC Barcelona 12-1, the latter’s worst ever defeat.

Atlético Bilbao

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 refuting the policy of only letting Basque-born players in the team (see origins of the "grandparent rule"). The same year also saw Zarra make his debut. Over the next thirteen seasons he went on to score 294 goals in all competitions for Atletico, plus another 20 for Spain in as many games. His 38 goals in the 1950/51 season still stands as a record. Another great player from this era was Panizo. In the 1943 the club won a La 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 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 been 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 FC Barcelona circumnavigated these rules by playing dual citizens such as Alfredo Di Stéfano, Ferenc Puskás, José Santamaria and Ladislao Kubala, Athletic adhered strictly to their cantera policy, showing little or no flexibility. The 1960s, however were dominated by Real Madrid and Atlético Bilbao 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 Barcelonamarker-born Armando Merodio to play for the club. However during 1960s other players such as Jesus 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 Athletic legend José Ángel Iribar. The 1970s were not much better with only another single Copa del Rey win in 1973. In December 1975, before a game against Real Sociedad, Iribar and the Real captain Ignacio 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 Franco. In 1977 the club reached the UEFA Cup final, only losing on away goals to Juventus. By now the club had reverted to using the name Athletic Bilbao.

The Clemente Era

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 clubs history. Young players from the cantera such as Santiago Urkiaga, Miguel De Andres, Ismael Urtubi, Estanislao Argote and Andoni Zubizarreta joined veterans Dani and Goikoetxea. In his first season in charge, Clemente led the team to 4th 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 3rd and 4th 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 Bilbao has failed to win a major trophy since the success of the Clemente era. A succession of coaches including José Ángel Iribar, Howard Kendall, Jupp Heynckes and Javier Irureta and even a returning Clemente failed to reproduce his success.

The Fernández Era

The most successful Athletic coach since Clemente has been Luis Fernández, appointed in 1996. In 1998 he led the club to second in La Liga and UEFA Champions League qualification. Fernandez 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 Salamancamarker and Biurrun, a Brazilianmarker-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.

Fernandez signed Bixente Lizarazu, the first Frenchmarker-born Basque to join the club, Ismael Urzaiz and José Mari.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 Garcia Lafuente and Etxeberria, were prominent members of the 1997/98 squad along with Rafael Alkorta, Julen Guerrero and Patxi Ferreira.

San Mamés Barria

The club has unveiled plans for a new stadium. From the 2014/2015 season, Athletic will play in the San Mamés Barria, a 53,000 capacity, UEFA 5-star stadium, built at a cost of 160 million euros.

Recent events

Athletic players celebrate a goal.
In recent seasons Athletic Bilbao have languished in mid-table and the club was embroiled in a relegation battle during the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons. In 2006 top-flight survival was ensured on the 37th match day when Deportivo de la Coruña were beaten at Riazor 2-1. Javier Clemente began his third spell as club coach in 2005, at a time 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 2006-2007 season. The 2006-2007 season has been 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. In December 2008 Spanish media claimed that this match had been fixed and that some of Levante UD players accepted a bribe from the Basque club. Despite the lack of on-field success, a majority of the club's supporters think the club's identity is more important than winning trophies. According to an El Mundo survey in the 1990s, 76% of Athletic fans would rather see the club relegated than give up the cantera policy. The most successful Athletic team of recent times has been the women’s football team who have won the Superliga Femenina four times between 2003 and 2007.

Copa del Rey Finalists

In the La Liga 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 2008–09 however the team managed to pull through some tough ties including local rivals Osasuna and the strong Sevilla side to reach their first final in the competition in 24 years. The final in 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 UEFA Champions League. Athletic's reward for their efforts was a place in the 'new' UEFA Europa League for the following 2009-2010 campaign.


Current squad

The numbers are established according to the official website: , and

Updated November 1, 2009

  • The players with shirt number over 25 belong to the farm club Bilbao Athletic with eligibility to appear in the first team.

Starting 11

These charts below depict the most used starters in the most used start formation. The most recent starters/formations are listed when total starts are equal between two players/formations.

Player records

Pichichi Trophy

In Spanish football, the Pichichi is the trophy awarded by Spanish sports newspaper Marca to the top goalscorer for each league season.

Name Season Goals
Carlos 1974-1975 19
Uriarte 1967-1968 22
Zarra 1952-1953 24
Zarra 1950-1951 38(R)
Zarra 1949-1950 25
Zarra 1946-1947 34
Zarra 1945-1946 24
Zarra 1944-1945 19
Unamuno 1939-1940 26
Gorostiza 1931-1932 12
Bata 1930-1931 27
Gorostiza 1929-1930 19

  • (R) = Record.

Ricardo Zamora Trophy

The Ricardo Zamora Trophy is a football (soccer) award, established by Spanish newspaper MARCA in 1958. The award goes to the goalkeeper who has the lowest "goals-to-games" ratio.

Name Season Goals
Iribar 1969-1970 20
Lezama 1946-1947 29
Echevarría 1940-1941 21
Blasco 1935-1936 30
Blasco 1933-1934 21
Blasco 1929-1930 20

Most games played in La Liga

International players


Trainers list of the XX Century
Year Trainers (1910-1963)   Year Trainers (1963-2000)
1910-1914 Mr. Sheperd 1963-1964 Juan Ochoantezana
1914-1915 Billy Barnes 1964-1965 Antonio Barrios (2º cycle)
1915-1919 ? 1965-1968 Agustín Gaínza
1919-1915 Billy Barnes (2º cycle) 1968-1969 Rafael Iriondo
1921-1922 Mr. Burton 1969-1971 Ronnie Allen
1922-1925 Juan Arzuaga 1971-1972 Salvador Artigas
1925-1926 Ralph Kirby / Fred Pentland 1972-1974 Milorad Pavić
1926-1929 Lippo Hertzka 1974-1975 Rafael Iriondo (2º cycle)
1929-1933 Fred Pentland (2º cycle) 1975-1979 Koldo Aguirre
1933-1935 Patricio Caicedo 1979-1981 Helmut Senekowitsch
1935-1937 William Garbutt / J. M Olabarria 1981 Iñaki Sáez
1939-1941 Roberto Echevarria 1981-1986 Javier Clemente
1940-1947 Juan Urquizu 1986-1987 José Ángel Iribar
1947-1949 Henry John Bagge 1987-1989 Howard Kendall
1949-1952 José Iraragorri 1989-1990 Txetxu Rojo
1952-1954 Antonio Barrios 1990-1991 Javier Clemente (2º cycle)
1955-1957 Ferdinand Daučík 1991-1992 Iñaki Sáez (2º cycle) / Jesús Aranguren
1957-1958 Baltasar Albéniz 1993-1994 Jupp Heynckes
1958-1960 Martím Francisco 1994-1995 Javier Irureta / J.M Amorrortu
1960-1962 Juan Antonio Ipiña 1995-1996 Dragoslav Stepanović
1962-1963 Ángel Zubieta 1996-2000 Luis Fernández

Trainers list of the XXI Century
Year Trainers
2000-2001 Txetxu Rojo
2001-2003 Jupp Heynckes
2003-2005 Ernesto Valverde
2005-2006 José Luis Mendilibar / Javier Clemente (3º cycle)
2006-2007 Félix Sarriugarte / José Manuel Esnal "Mané"
2007-today Joaquín Caparrós

Uniform's evolution

Shirt sponsors and manufacturers

Period Kit manufacturer Shirt partner
1980–1990 Adidas None
1990–1999 Kappa
1999-2001 Adidas
2001-2008 100% Athletic
2008-2009 Petronor
2009-2017 Umbro


Men’s Football

National tournaments

La Liga
* Winners (8): 1929-30, 1930-31, 1933-34, 1935-36, 1942-43, 1955-56, 1982-83, 1983-84.
* Runners-up (7): 1931-32, 1932-33, 1940-41, 1946-47, 1951-52, 1969-70, 1997-98.
Copa del Rey
* Winners (23 + 1 ): 1902, 1903, 1904, 1910, 1911, 1914, 1915, 1916, 1921, 1923, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1950, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1969, 1973, 1984.
* Runners-up (12): 1905, 1906, 1913, 1920, 1942, 1949, 1953, 1966, 1967, 1977, 1985, 2009.

Supercopa de España
* Winners (1): 1984.
* Runners-up (2): 1985, 2009.

Copa Eva Duarte
* Winners (1): 1950.
* Runners-up (1): 1945.

International tournaments

UEFA Europa League
*Runners-up (1): 1977.

Pequeña Copa del Mundo de Clubes
*Winners (1): 1967

Friendly tournaments

Morocco Summer Cup
* Winners (1): 2008.
Trofeo Ramón de Carranza
* Winners (1): 1972.
Trofeo Colombino
* Winners (3): 1981, 1990, 1999.
Trofeo Costa del Sol
* Winners (2): 1961, 1978
Trofeo Teresa Herrera
* Winners (2): 1947, 1983.
Trofeo Villa de Gijón
* Winners (1): 2005
Trofeo Ibérico
* Winners (1): 1977.
Trofeo Lasesarre
* Winners (1): 2007.
Trofeo Ciudad de Vigo
* Winners (1): 1979.
Copa Latina
* Runners-up (1): 1956.

Regional tournaments

Basque Cup
* Winners (1): 1935.

Northern Championship / Biscay Championship
* Winners (17): 1914, 1915, 1916, 1920, 1921, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1928, 1929, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1939, 1940.

Women’s Football

Superliga Femenina
* Winners (4): 2002-03, 2003-04, 2004-05, 2006-07


Season League Cup Europe Other Comp. Top scorer
Div Pos P W D L F A Pts Name(s) Goals
2004-05 1D 9th 38 14 9 15 59 54 51 SF UEFA Cup R32 Ismael Urzaiz 12
2005-06 1D 12th 38 11 12 15 40 46 45 R16 Intertoto Cup R2 Aritz Aduriz 6
2006-07 1D 17th 38 10 10 18 44 62 40 QF Ismael Urzaiz 8
2007-08 1D 11th 38 13 11 14 40 43 50 QF Fernando Llorente 11
2008-09 1D 13th 38 12 8 18 47 62 44 RU Fernando Llorente 14
2009-10 1D Europa League Supercopa de España RU
Last updated: 19 November 2009

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

Colours :
Gold Champion
Silver Runner-up

Records and Statistics

San Mamés Stadium from outside
  • Associates: 35.321
  • Budget: €58.693.000 (2009-10)
  • Seasons in La Liga: 78 (all).
  • Most goals scored in one match home: Athletic 12 - FC 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 de Vigo 1 (1946-47)
  • Most goals scored in one match in European competitions: Standard Liège 1 - Athletic 7 (2004-05).
  • Best position in La Liga: 1st (8 times)
  • Worst position in La Liga: 17th (06-07).
  • Historical position in the ranking of La Liga: 3rd
  • Participations in UEFA Europa League: 17
  • Best position in UEFA Europa League: Runner-up.
  • Participations in UEFA Champions League: 4
  • Best position in UEFA Champions League: Quarter final.


  • It is with Real Madrid and FC Barcelona the only team to have contested all editions of La Liga, without having ever fallen category.
  • In the 1929-30 season, finished the league unbeaten.
  • Has the record for the biggest win in La Liga (12-1 to FC Barcelona, in 1931).
  • Has the record for the biggest win in Copa del Rey (12-1 to Celta de Vigo, in 1947).
  • Has the highest win record at Real Madrid as a visitor (0-6 in Santiago Bernabéu).
  • Zarra is the only player in the history of La Liga which was 6 times top scorer of this tournament.
  • Zarra holds the record for goals in the history of La Liga (252 goals).
  • Zarra holds the record for goals in a single season (38 goals, in 30 matches).
  • Zarra is the top scorer in the history of Copa del Rey (81 goals).
  • Gainzamarker has the record of highest scorer in a single match of La Liga (8 goals).
  • Zarra holds the record for goals in a Copa del Rey final (4 goals).
  • Bata is the player with the best average scorer in La Liga (0,92 goals per match played).

Stadium information

  • Name - San Mamés Stadiummarker
  • City - Bilbaomarker
  • Capacity - 39,750
  • Inauguration - 1913
  • Pitch size - 103 x 68 m
  • Sports Facilities: Lezama

Future Stadium

Model of the New San Mamés Stadium
  • Name - New San Mamés Stadium
  • Approximate capacity - 53.000
  • Beginning construction - 2009 / 2010
  • End construction (forecast) - 2014

Lezama facilities

Training Lezama.
The Lezama facility is the complex where all of the categories of Athletic train. Opened in the 1971-72 season. At present, facilities include, inter alia, five natural grass fields, a gymnasium, a pediment, a medical center and a residence for young players.

See also


  1. La estrenan mañana, Deia daily, 30 November 2004.
  2. El Athletic firma con Petronor un acuerdo para lucir publicidad en su camiseta por 2 millones de euros, Europa Press, 29 July 2008.
  3. San Mames Barria - Official Site
  4. Athletic Club trainers
  5. Agreement between Umbro and Athletic Bilbao
  6. Note: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 [1] and the club includes it in its own honours list.[2]. However LFP and RFEF official statistics do not include this as an Athletic win.
  7. 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".
  8. Spanish Cup Winners
  9. All goals scored in La Liga matches
  10. Número de socios
  11. Asamblea Extraordinaria da vía libre para la gestión de 53,1 m €
  12.ón_histórica_de_la_primera_división_española_de_fútbol Ranking of La Liga
  13. Final 1976/77
  14. Cuarter final 1956/57
  15. Athletic Club Records

External links

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