Just like today, 3 July, but in 1956, Athletic Club faced an Italian team, AC Milan, for the first time. After a magnificent season in which the lions won the League and Cup, they were defeated 3-1 in the final of the Latin Cup (Copa Latina), the first European final in red-and-white history. A goal from Artetxe and two shots to the post from Arieta and from Artetxe himself. According to the chronicles, Athletic was dominant during the match, but they suffered from their lack of goal. “It has never been more evident than tonight that the dominant team does not lead the match,” sadly expressed the journalist of the Gaceta del Norte. After beating OGC Nice 2-0 in the semi-finals, Athletic had to settle for second place. A precursor to the current Champions League (European Cup), the Copa Latina was held between 1949 and 1957 and pitted the champions of the French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish leagues against each other.
AC Milan is the first of a list of Italian rivals made up of 20 clubs, which we have faced on 48 occasions, 20 of them in European qualifying matches. Overall, Athletic have won 20 matches, drawn 13 and lost 15.
In these 64 years of matches, Athletic Club has faced the strongest and most traditional teams in the history of Italian football, those who lead the historical classification of Serie A or the ranking of titles. Athletic Club has faced AC Milan seven times, same as against Juventus. Other Italian rivals are Inter, Roma (4), Napoli (3), Lazio (2), Bologna, Catania (2), Chievo Verona, Fiorentina (3), Genoa, Palermo, Parma (3), Perugia, Sampdoria (2), Ternana, Torino (4), Udinese, US Sassuolo (2) and Verona.
Athletic Club has met Italian rivals in European qualifiers on 11 occasions, playing a total of 20 matches. Some of them are marked in red because of their importance, including two of the three European finals against AC Milan and Juventus that Athletic has played in its history. Others worth mentioning are the Luigi Ferraris (Genoa) win over Sampdoria and the play-off against Napoli in the Champions League.
- Athletic Club was defeated in their first UEFA Cup final against Juventus in 1977, 1-0 in Turin and 2-1 in Bilbao. This was also the case of the first European final against AC Milan, the dominance in the second leg at San Mamés was not enough to win the title and the double value of the goals scored away gave the title to the rival. Juve also eliminated the red-and-white squad in the 1988 UEFA Cup, 5-1 in Turin and 3-2 at San Mames. In the group stage of the Champions League in 1998, the year of the centenary, Athletic managed to draw 0-0 and 1-1 with Juve, but did not manage to qualify.
- The lions dropped Sampdoria out from 1997 UEFA after a 2-1 away win (Ríos and Larrainzar) and a 2-0 win at San Mamés (Larrazabal and Ziganda). In the next round, Athletic was defeated by Aston Vila in the round of 16.
- The Champions League made its debut at the new San Mamés on 27 August 2014, a life-or-death play-off against Napoli. After a 1-1 draw at Sao Paolo, Athletic needed to make a statement in front of their home crowd at La Catedral, which was packed and cheered on as on magical nights. Two goals scored byAduriz, one from Ibai and a debut from Unai Lopez in the red-and-white to complete the positive figure and a 3-1 win.
- Athletic was able to avenge their defeat in Latina Cup final and finally dropped out AC Milan at the 76/77 UEFA at the round of 16.
- After beating Newcastle United in the previous round, Parma shattered the red-and-white European dream in 1994. They won 1-0 at San Mames and lost 4-2 at Ennio Tardini, with the final controversy coming from an unanswered penalty against Andrinua. Parma would face Athletic again in the UEFA Group Stage in 2004. It was the only match the red-and-white won 2-0 at San Mames, with goals from Gurpegui and Del Horno.
- Torino dropped Athletic out unexpectedly in 2015. The 2-2 draw at the Turin Olympics, including Williams’ first goal, suggested a positive result at San Mames, but the Italians won 3-2 and prevented a place in the last 16.
- US Sassuolo became Italy’s last remaining opponents in the European qualifiers. In the UEFA Group Stage in 2016, Athletic lost 3-0 in Reggio Emilia, but a 3-2 victory at San Mames, with goals by Raul Garcia, Aduriz and Lekue, ended up giving our squad a chance to qualify.
- Amongst the friendly matches, Fabio Capello’s 1993 win over AC Milan was widely celebrated. The two own goals scored by Carlos Garcia and Baresi ended up with the ten-month unbeaten run Italians were living.
Photos: Athletic Club Museoa
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