IN PROFILE: Athletic Club

By SFC Media time Wed 22 Jun Club

Ahead of the pre-season friendly with Athletic Club at St Mary’s on Sunday 7th August, we profile the Bilbao-based side.

Much like Southampton, Athletic Club have largely improved season-on-season in recent times.

When they won the Markus Liebherr Memorial Cup at St Mary’s in 2011, Marcelo Bielsa had not long been in charge of the side, with striker Fernando Llorente tipped for a big season, and young midfielder Ander Herrera making his breakthrough at the club.

Despite leading Athletic to the Europa League final and making it into the round of 32 the following season, Bielsa left his post at the end of the 2012/13 campaign.

He was replaced with Spaniard Ernesto Valverde, who has taken Athletic to three consecutive top-seven finishes in La Liga, as well as Champions League qualification and a Spanish Super Cup title.

In that time, Athletic completed a new stadium, with the impressive San Mamés opening in September 2013, boasting a 53,289 capacity.

And Athletic have become a symbol of progress in that time under the guidance of Valverde, taking the team to a fifth-place finish in La Liga last season, which included progression to the quarter-finals of the Europa League, as well as a Spanish Super Cup success.

 

One man who epitomises Athletic’s progression is 35-year-old forward Aritz Aduriz, who has been the club’s top scorer in each of the past four seasons.

The Spaniard is in his third spell with the club, having also represented Valladolid, Mallorca and Valencia during his lengthy career to-date.

He’s fresh from the finest season of his career, in which he scored 32 goals for Athletic in all competitions, and, remarkably, he's been getting better every year since turning 30.

The Basque's late-career explosion is also significant for Spain, with the striker in the national team squad for Euro 2016.

He is joined in the Spain side this summer by fellow club-mate Mikel San José, with both men likely to be on the bill when Athletic Club visit St Mary’s a week before the start of the 2016/17 Premier League season.


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