SAN MAMES BARRIA
After the hangover as a result of the Centenary celebrations, the club was runner-up in the 1997-98 league season, and then participated in the Champions League the following season, and then Fernandez's reign came to an end in 2000. Later two well-known people, Txetxu Rojo, and Jupp Heynckes were to sit on the bench, and in the 2004-05 season the team made it back to Europe, via the UEFA, under the guidance of an ex-player Ernesto Valverde.
After Valverde had left, the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons were the darkest in Athletic history, breaking almost all the negative records of the club. Tremendously difficult times not only on a sporting level (the most negative of all the times in the standings as far as the league is concerned) but institutionally speaking with resignation of President Fernando Lamikiz as well.
This black two-year period is now behind the club and, at the moment, the team is coached by Joaquin Caparrós, a young team, with top footballers, where the generational changing of the guard is taking place without any major traumas, and where people from the youth teams (cantera) in Lezama are being got behind.
It is also during this time, after years of negotiations with local political institutions, that a vital project for the viability of the club has been crystallized: the construction of the new San Mamés Football Field, which will commence in 2009.
That Club, which was founded more than a century ago in the image of the English clubs, is now an organization with more than 33,000 members. A Club which is famous for upholding a peculiar trait which was published in an article in its day by the French sports newspaper L'Equipe, when defining the club as a "unique case in the history of football world-wide". This peculiarity is none other than maintaining the tradition of having Basque players, or players from the Basque Youth teams, a policy which has enabled the Club, throughout its entire history, to be at the top.
Joaquin Caparrós' first season at the front of the team is a calm season, in which we must highlight the convincing victories in Mestalla or Vicente Calderón. Ends up in eleventh position in Liga, with 50 points, and reaches the quarterfinals in Copa, where Racing brings down the rojiblanco team.
The 2008-2009 season will always be remembered for the Copa Final that Athletic Club disputes in Valencia against FC Barcelona. After 24 years, Athletic once again reaches a final and Bilbao and Biscay in general bend over backwards for the team. The end result is not in our favour, but the memories are unforgettable for the whole rojiblanca family.
In Liga, the team did not maintain enough regularity to feel relaxed and there were some complicated moments. But after defeating Betis in San Mamés, four days before disputing the final, salvation was unequivocal.
Josu Urrutia is elected president of Athletic Club and with him comes along Marcelo Bielsa as Manager. The season is memorable since the team reaches a European final for the second time in its history, leaving behind unforgettable qualifying rounds against United, Schalke or Sporting de Portugal. In the final, Athletic is defeated by Atlético Madrid in Bucharest.
Athletic also reaches the Copa final. And once again the rival is FC Barcelona as occurred three years earlier in Valencia. It did not happen but at least the team was able to classify to dispute the Europa League qualifying rounds.
In the Liga, in the end the team suffered the consequences of the effort it had to make of disputing three competitions and finished the season in tenth place on the table.
Once the season ended, Igor Gabilondo, Koikili Lertxundi and Aitor Ocio were no longer part of the club.
2013-14. Marcelo Bielsa terminates contract and Ernesto Valverde, who had finished the previous season as Valencia CF Manager, returns to Bilbao. Joining the team are Mikel Rico, Beñat, Balenziaga, Iago, Kike Sola and Xabi Etxeita, in addition to Saborit, Erik Moran and Albizua climbing from the affiliate. With the season started, Guillermo with Bilbao Athletic playing piece will make his debut and in the winter market, after his cession in Mallorca, Iñigo Perez returns.
Fernando Llorente, Fernando Amorebieta, Xabi Castillo, Igor Martinez, Ismael Lopez and Raul Fernandez Cavada abandon the rojiblanca organization. Jon Aurtenetxe and Jonás Ramalho leave on-loan.
New season, new stadium, that could not be unveiled on the first home match in the second matchday against Osasuna but donned its best for the occasion against Real Celta Club in the fourth matchday.
Athletic unveiled a new home with a victory against Celta by 3-2, although the first goal scorer would be Charles and will go down in history as such. The first rojiblanco to score was Mikel San Jose, who scored the 1-1 equalizer.
The season can only be described as magnificent; fourth on the table and for the second time in history classified to play the Champions League.
In Copa, the team gave its best but fell in the quarterfinals to the best Atlético Madrid in history.
2014-15. With all eyes set on the qualifying round of the Champions League, Athletic begins the season with the loss of Ander Herrera and the incorporations of Borja Viguera, last maximum goal scorer of the Liga Adelante with Deportivo Alavés and of Jon Aurtenetxe, who played on-loan in Celta. Saborit and Albizua also seek new horizons to be able to enjoy more playing time and Guillermo, Bustinza, Aketxe and Unai Lopez join the premier squad. With the season underway, Iñaki Williams takes the leap and in the winter market Erik Moran departs.
In Liga, the team had an irregular run. It had difficulty at the beginning, but before Christmas it recovered good sensations, although it gave away points at home against rivals of the lower part of the table. After the Christmas break, things got worse, until the match against Rayo Vallecano in San Mamés, where we prevailed in the last minutes. A great end of season took the team to seventh position, with the right to dispute the following edition of Europa League.
In Champions, Napoli was eliminated on a perfect day. First match with a full house in San Mamés, almost 45,000 spectators occupying their seats and eliminating Naples. In the groups phase, the defeat in Borisov and the two defeats before Oporto made the two final victories in Lviv before Shaktar and in San Mamés before Bate fallow.
However, the third position allowed the team to continue disputing the Europa League, but Torino took the qualifying round.
The best came in the Copa. After eliminating Alcoyano, Celta and Malaga, Espanyol was left in semi-finals to reach the second Copa final in four seasons. First it was called on to play in San Mamés, where RCD Espanyol played better. In spite of being able to win, we only took a one-one draw which made them favourites in view of the second leg in Cornellà.
But in the second leg Athletic Club gave a soccer recital and two goals by Aduriz and Etxeita took the team to the final, where once again FC Barcelona awaited. The stadium chosen by the RFEF was the Camp Nou and 70,000 rojiblanco fans travelled to the Condal City to enjoy the atmosphere and support their team, and needless-to-say did not provoke any incidents whatsoever. FC Barcelona was proclaimed champion after winning 3-1. Next stop, the Supercopa.
The 2015-16 Season begins with two immediate challenges, to enter the Europa League groups phase and dispute the Supercopa against FC Barcelona. Inter of Baku is eliminated in the first round and we confront the first leg of the Supercopa in San Mamés. San Jose, from almost the midfield, and Aduriz, on three occasions, accomplish that the team appears in Barcelona on 17 August as favourites to win the title. And after drawing one all in the Camp Nou it achieves it. Thirty-one years later we are once again champions and Bilbao and all of Bizkaia celebrate it in style.