Basque double-nostalgia: Fans elect Valverde above Bielsa in record-high elections turnout

By Juego de Posicion |

Many remember Athletic Club for its unique Basque-only policy. But the Basque club also had something important in the agenda on June 24th, 2022: Elections. Socios get to vote for the preferred candidate on the basis of regular democratic, free and fair elections. In the latest sequel, popular candidate Jon Uriarte won the elections as expected.

Besides Uriarte, Barkala also counted on Ernesto Valverde to succeed Marcelino, fired at the end of the season. On the other hand, Arechabaleta shook the scene by announcing ex-Athletic Club manager Marcelo Bielsa, a name with weight. The South American had already managed Athletic Club a few years ago with a fair amount of success; ‘El Loco’ lived up to the expectations, hopping in a livestream online to show fans his plans for the team publicly. The Argentinian claimed to have watched ninety games of Athletic Club, including a few of the academy. For what could characterise ‘El Loco’ better than watching an insane number of matches before even getting the job? Marcelo Bielsa might be liked by many of the socios, but the other candidates had Ernesto Valverde, a name with immense weight, too. 

One of the selling points of having Valverde is, as Uriarte said, “Nobody knows the history and understands the culture of the club” better than Ernesto. His second spell, between 2013 and 2017 perhaps earned him the most respect, having brought Athletic Club to Champions League football and winning the Spanish Supercup with a 5-1 win on aggregate over F.C Barcelona in 2015, the very club he would manage a few years later.

Eventually, Ernesto managed Barcelona and despite becoming a laughing stock, the Basque manager collected a few La Liga’s and made justice to his reputation as a great connoisseur of the league.

And perhaps, that is why two candidates out of three had him as their man. Ernesto is now fresh, having taken a break from football since leaving Barcelona in 2020, and dedicated his free time to photography and leading a fairly calm life. 

Athletic’s Club season should have indicated a clear path towards European football. If the Basque club has always depended on its academy, these last years saw more and more attacking talents flourish, arguably justifying the club’s strict basque-only policy. Established players, like Sancet and Muniain continued to perform, whilst Vesga, the Williams Brothers and Martinez at the back ensured stability across all fronts under Marcelino. 

Valverde’s flexibility is likely to become the #1 argument for his arrival, as the various strengths of the squad are likely to help him anticipate the opponent’s strengths and possibly get Athletic Club back on track in European football.

Uriarte posed himself as the young entrepreneur, able to help the club through a rather innovative perspective, promising to improve the academy and schools around Athletic Club, an important detail where the socio-cultural dimension of football is more important than anywhere. The 43 year old also insisted on the importance of the Director Of Football (with whom he fell out with during the campaign, chaotically enough!) being focused on male and female football. It is fair to believe that fans finally decided Uriarte for his project, and Valverde for the certainty one would get unlike with Marcelo Bielsa (despite they both are strong names!). 

La Liga - Club News