ATHLETIC BILBAO HISTORY

Football was originally introduced to Bilbao in the late 19th century by British steel and shipyard workers who formed Bilbao Football Club. Athletic Club was founded in 1898 by returning Basque students educated in Britain and four years later the two combined to form the Vizcaya team that won the inaugural 1903 Copa del Rey, beating Barcelona.

The clubs officially merged as Athletic Club and in 1910 the current red and white striped kit was adopted, some claiming links with Sunderland and Southampton, from where the original founders came.

The team’s star striker of the day was Rafael Moreno Aranzadi, nicknamed Pichichi, scorer of the first goal at San Mames and whose name today is given to La Liga’s top goalscorer each season.

Los Leones have played in every Primera Liga season since its inception. They have won La Liga eight times and are one of only three clubs never to have been relegated from the top flight. Their most successful era since then came in the early 1980s when Javier Clemente’s side won the 1983 League title and the 1984 League and Cup double.

The club enjoyed an excellent Europa League run in 2011-12 under Marcelo Bielsa, defeating Manchester United twice before seeing off Schalke in the quarter-final. A semi-final win over Sporting Lisbon set up Athletic’s first European final since 1977, only for Bielsa’s side to lose 3–0 to Atletico Madrid in Bucharest.

As the Bielsa era drew to a close the following summer, Ernesto Valverde returned for a second spell in charge and guided Athletic to the Champions League group stage for the 14-15 campaign, which also spawned a Copa del Rey Final.

Although they lost to Barcelona in the latter, Valverde and Los Leones exacted sweet revenge as they beat the Catalans 5-1 on aggregate to win the 2015 Supercopa de Espana - their first major trophy in 31 years.

His exploits in becoming the Athletic Coach with the most official games under his belt (306) and qualifying for European competition in each of his four seasons back did not go unnoticed as he was snapped up by Barca in the summer of 2017, to be replaced by B-team boss Jose Angel Ziganda.

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