New season

Faith in the red-and-whites’ homegrown talent

When the training facilities at Lezama opened on December 1971, 25% of Athletic Club’s first-team…

Faith in the red-and-whites’ homegrown talent
Faith in the red-and-whites’ homegrown talent
Jun 28, 201809:54

When the training facilities at Lezama opened on December 1971, 25% of Athletic Club’s first-team consisted of homegrown player. In this past 2017/18 season, almost half a century later, this figure had risen to 81%. These figures give rise to two complementary interpretations. The first reading speaks very highly of the Lezama project as a production line for football players. A second more profound reading ratifies the validity of the Club’s sporting philosophy as a key part of its identity. Athletic has had to make a virtue of necessity because it has sought to maintain its own particular approach above all else. It has been this philosophy, namely, the lasting intention of fielding only players born and brought up in the Basque Country, that lies behind Lezama and has meant more than 250 agreements with Basque feeder clubs and working with over 700 teams in different age groups.

Nevertheless, the fact this project based on homegrown talent has experienced some of its finest hours in recent years precisely when the percentage of local players in most of our rivals is either at its lowest ebb or sometimes simply non-existent, requires the Club to redouble its commitment to produce new footballing talent. Planet football today is a huge global supermarket with miles of aisles full of shelves where club managements browse with their trollies. While all the other clubs happily move on through the different sections displaying goalkeepers, defenders, midfield players and strikers, Athletic Club turns its back on these vast shopping centres and, as always, prefers to do its shopping in the local famers’ market.

Faced with this scenario, our hope lies, with yet ever more force and weight, on Lezama and what it stands for: Basque football in general; and the local game in Bizkaia in particular.

Núñez and Córdoba

These two latest additions to the first team that have come up through the ranks confirm the success of Athletic Club’s football academy. While in the 2016/17 season Arrizabalaga, Yeray and Vesga were the ones to make the step up and secure their place, this past season has seen Núñez and Córdoba make several appearances and put in some good performances among the regular first-team players, Adding Williams and Lekue to these five means there are now seven young players that regularly feature in the first eleven. They are also accompanied by others that are fighting for a place in the next matchday squad and line-up to be announced by the new trainer Eduardo Berizzo; players from the “B” team Bilbao Athletic that will spend the pre-season with the first team: Unai Simón, Andoni López, Gorka Guruzeta, Peru Nolaskoain, Iñigo Vicente and Iñigo Muñoz, together with players returning to the club after a time away on loan, such as Unai López, Villalibre and Remiro.

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