Athletic Bilbao - Because not everyone wants to sign C.Ronaldo

D.Woodgate

Member
May 28, 2010
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First Half of Season 2013-2014

With so much money to spend, it seemed rude not to go out there and try and sign a big name to boost the morale in the camp and excite the fans!

News just in that Mikel Arteta, a Basque legend, wants to finish his career in the Basqueland. Although ageing at 31 and beginning to lose his physical attributes, he is still a class act and at 3.2million, an absolute bargain for a couple of seasons, especially considering how great a role model he will be on the training ground for the youngsters! (See attached picture). Unfortunately there were not any other players really worth signing at the time, so the war chest has been left largely untouched, however Athletic are hoping to pick up another few youngsters over the course of the year.

As for the Champions League qualifier, Athletic Club got drawn against Club Brugge from Belgium, who the lads wasted no time dispatching 6-0 on aggregate, with Ander standing out as a top performer, scoring 2 and setting up 2 over the two legs. Then we got grouped with Arsenal and Dortmund for the Champions Cup group stages… AGAIN. 2 seasons in a row? Im sick and tired of seeing Arsene Wenger the leathery rat, give us someone else to play! Red Star made up the numbers and looked like they were going to be the wiping boys, because to be honest, they are absolutely swag!

Domestically the season started very slowly, losing to Athletico Madrid and Barcelona and drawing to Getafe and Deportivo in the first month or so. To make matters worse, Arsenal had remembered about the shock knockout round loss to the lads the season before and Babacar evidently had a point to prove, scoring a hattrick in a 4-0 rout at the Emirates, and wow, in hindsight I wish that last goal hadn’t gone in! We drew both the games with Dortmund 0-0, bore draws, but in all honesty a well grafted point in Germany, Meanwhile, Red Star were dispatched 5-2 and surprisingly, only 1-0 at home, but at least another 3 points were on the board. Even more surprising was the return trip for the Arsenal game in Bilbao, where the lads managed to step up their European game again, beating Arsenal 3-1 to ensure that 11 points were in the bank, considering we went through on 9 points the season before, it was looking good!

Well.. I thought so, until I realized we’d been Knocked out of the European Champions Cup on goal difference by Dortmund, (guess they got their revenge for last year..), the goal difference was 1! +3 and +4 respectively… Devo’d... if only we’d scored one more against Red Star or let in one less against Arsenal.. Great…. I have attached a picture of the Group Table for anyone who fancies having a little laugh at my expense.

However, domestically, by November things began to pick up, beating long time rivals Real Madrid 3-0 with Llorente bagging a brace. Unbelievable tekkers from the lads. By the end of December, we were sitting 7th in the table and still in the Spainish Cup, with the opportunity to test ourselves in the Europa Cup in the new year, Not quite the point we were hoping to be in, but there was still plenty of time for improvement.

I evaluated the situation at Athletic Club at the turn of the 2014 new year. The reality of Basque only players began to hit home with only a pool of 587 players to choose from. Only 3 of which are valued above 2.5 million, Xabi Alonso, Javier Garrido the Monaco Left Back and Mikel Gonzalez Porto’s Centre Back… Not great prospects considering even Xabi Alonso is 32 years old at this point, Monreal is a lot better than Garrido and San Jose is a lot better than Mikel Gonzalez… After such a fantastic 2013, it appears that half way through the 2013-2014 season, maybe Athletic have gone as far as they can with their Semi Final Champions League performance the year before. With Athletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona spending mega bucks, signing players such as Dzeko, Navas, Lavezzi, Lucas Barrios, Montolivo and Jovetic as well as holding onto players such as Messi, Aguero and Ronaldo while my only major signing was a deteriorating Arteta, how can Athletic really hope to compete with the elite of Europe?!

The reality of the Basque Transfer situation was made even more apparent with the dual notification that Ander and Llorente were both unhappy. Both want to leave the club. With Villa, Xavi and Iniesta all ageing, Barcelona are interested in Muniain, Llorente and Ander, as well as Athletico Madrid threatening to offer the 21million transfer clause in his contract. Ander rejected a new contract which was offered in the hope of removing the 21 million clause to no avail. Thankfully due to private conversations with both players, neither requested an immediate transfer but no doubt, unless we begin to challenge for major honours, these teams will be back, knocking on the door with undoubtedly ludacris offers. 4th place is simply not good enough any more, but realistically can Athletic really be expected to do any better?

Sitting in 7th place, it was time for a change. A more Attacking home formation.
4 3 3, with a holding midfielder anchor man and 3 front men. Time for Felipe to step from his Super-sub role and push Muniain further forward! With Felipe as a Poacher, Muniain as a Deep Lying Forward and Llorente as a Complete Forward, the big basque guns are ready for battle.

Bring on 2014! Come on the lads!

I have attached some pictures of the youngsters which look like good prospects that I have managed to pick up/bring through the youth system. Although none look as good as Felipe, there could be a few alright players there, re training Xabier as a centre mid, with that work rate and passing he could become fantastic! Waiting for the next batch to come through at the end of the season! With Arteta and Xabi Prieto both getting on, new faces need to start appearing and as discussed there aren’t many exceptional prospects above the age of 20!
 

T.Sears

Member
May 12, 2010
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Hey, it's me again. Sorry for not following this lately, but I had work experience in the Army last week. I don't manage Bilbao anymore, I'm in charge of a amateur club called Queens Park now, but I've always wanted to reload a new game and start as Athletic again. You've progressed superbly with Athletic, and all I guess you can keep doing is buy young players or enhance your facilities further. Those youngsters look amazing btw.

Any chance of a screenshot of your team + tactic?
 

D.Woodgate

Member
May 28, 2010
66
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Hey, it's me again. Sorry for not following this lately, but I had work experience in the Army last week. I don't manage Bilbao anymore, I'm in charge of a amateur club called Queens Park now, but I've always wanted to reload a new game and start as Athletic again. You've progressed superbly with Athletic, and all I guess you can keep doing is buy young players or enhance your facilities further. Those youngsters look amazing btw.

Any chance of a screenshot of your team + tactic?
Cheers mate, I'm now just entering 2015 and the youngster's Felipe and Muniain are becoming phenomenal players! Have had all the youth facilities upgraded to the best possible as you say, just hoping a few more gems come through the ranks!

My Tactic is basically 4-3-3 Control when at home/against more average teams. With all Iraizoz in goal, 4 defenders on defend duty (Monreal, Amorebieta, San Jose, Azpilicueta, a defensive midfielder (Javi Martinez), a deep lying playmaker (Raul Garcia or Mikel Arteta) and an advanced playmaker (Ander), then 3 up front, Muniain (deep lying forward support allowing him to run at full backs), Llorente as a complete forward with balls aimed to his head in the middle and Felipe, the new Fernando Torres as a Poacher.

I am going to update again in the next few days with the second half of the 2013-2014 season and first half of the 2014-2015 season so watch this space. Few more twists and turns and another fantastic addition to the squad who I wont say anymore about until the update! Plenty more screen shots to come too.

(Need to transfer everything to the new blog format as well so hopefully you guys will still be able to follow the Basque Lads via that new system!)
 

Wilko

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Aug 18, 2010
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looks fantastic so far, and whats not realistic about C. Ronaldo to Wolves!? ahaa ;) Keep it up! :)
 

D.Woodgate

Member
May 28, 2010
66
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Second Half of 2013-2014 Season


In the quarter final of the Spainish Cup, Athletic Club drew Sevilla, who the lads managed to beat 3-1 on aggregate, setting up a semi final against Malaga. This turned out to be a two legged affair of 3 own goals, 3 sending offs, 5 injuries and a place in the Final of the Spainish Cup against Real Madrid thanks to a 3-2 aggregate win! Maybe there will be silverware at the Nuevo San Mames at the end of the season afterall!

Next up in the European adventure was Bayern Munchen, who the lads managed to beat 3-2 thanks to a brace from none other than Fernando Llorente! In the next round of the Europa Cup we drew AC Milan… Great. When I saw the draw I sat there thinking that these draws must be muddled up with the Champions Cup teams! It didn’t end well, losing 5-1 on aggregate, following a 4-1 battering at the San Siro… Robinho had a fantastic game so it must have been sunny, so much for a good run in the 'minor' European cup!

The rocky back and forth season continued domestically, with a great 2-1 win against Barcelona which was their first lose of the season! Unfortunately a few games later Real Madrid were not in any mood to play around, convincingly beating the lads 3-0 (doesn’t look good for the Spainish Cup final does it…)

Athletic's Season looked like it was going to turn from bad to worse, with the announcement that Ander was unhappy and is looking to leave the club… Devo’d.

Woodgate turned up to the training ground the next day with a pained expression, the sort you expect to see the morning after a night on the vodka and beers, evidently, it was business time. By lunchtime Athletic Club Fan Favourite Ander had signed a new contract, a generous 80,000 a week, up from his current 25,000 a week contract. The deal was signed to last until 2019 and thankfully, the 21million transfer clause was removed!

Athletic also released statements that deals had been secured for two youngsters at the end of the season, Luna, a potential centre back replacement in a few years time with great Tackling and Heading, and Manazares, a left back with high acceleration and pace who could be potentially retrained into a winger. I have attached pictures of both for those that are interested.

With 5 games of the season left, Athletic Bilbao were placed precariously in 5th position, 4 points behind Sevilla in 4th. It is looking more and more like Europa League football than Champions League football for the lads next season! Alvaro Negredo had been absolutely bossing it for them, with 21 goals and 13 assists in the league, while Llorente also has 21 at this point.

4 games left, still 4 points behind Sevilla after both teams drew.

3 games left. Still 4 points behind Sevilla. Felipe playing fantastically, 5 goals in his last 5 goals. 2 Goals from him against Espanyol enough to secure 3 more points.

2 games left, still 1 point behind Sevilla, Iker Muniain with 2 against Rayo in a 2-0 win

2-1 win against Real Sociedad with Felipe scoring again while Sevilla threw away more points losing 3-2 to Deportivo, Now into 4th position. 1 more game left.

Final game of the season against Valencia away. And we lost 3-2.. thanks to a 90+2 Moral goal.. Unfortunately Sevilla won 2-0 and took full advantage of our last day of the season slump.. We’ve thrown it away on the last day of the season and will have to deal with only playing Europa League football next year.

Though it would be nice to play in the champions league again, maybe if the Europa League isn’t put at a top priority then maybe a real push in the domestic league next year might be in order! The League Table is attached below. Losing 10 games is not good enough, the lads have shown their class, beating Athletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona during the season, so next season the aim will be for the loses to stay in single figures.

Iker Muniain won the Spainish young player of the year award with Felipe second. (see picture attached) This in my opinion shows how much the two have developed over the season, even though not everything has gone the club way. Especially now they have been given more attacking freedom in a more attacking 4-3-3 formation. Meanwhile, Llorente topped his goal scoring tally for the season with 27 in his 10th season with the club, a real club talisman!

However, the season was not over yet, with the Spainish Cup final against Real Madrid, a game of mistakes and missed opportunities. After 90 minutes the game was hanging in the balance at 1-1, Llorente with the goal and also a missed penalty. See the match report picture attached for the final result!!
 

D.Woodgate

Member
May 28, 2010
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Building up to the 2014-2015 Season.

At the end of the season Xabi Prieto put in a transfer request, even though he played in 20 games in the season before, unfortunately the new 4,3,3 system does not really cater for a natural winger and at nearly 31, maybe it is time to let him go if his heart is no longer at the club!

With Orbaiz aged 34 and his contract finished at the end of last season, the veteran central midfielder parted from Athletic to a standing ovation from the fans after 14 seasons with the club. Meanwhile, Gurpegi the other veteran central midfielder has been given one more year on his contract, acting as a back up to the team and a role model for the younger players. Markel, a utility defensive midfielder came in on free transfer to act as cover for Raul Garcia and Javi Martinez in that holding midfielder role.

Some good news regarding the Stature of the club since Woodgate joined in 2010. 4 seasons on Athletic are the 14th richest club in the world, just behind FC Bayern, an indication of just how much the club has benefited from Champions Cup football over the past 3 years.

Building up to the start of the 2014-15 Season, Manchester United declare interest in Felipe. Uh oh. 3 years left on his contract though on 20k a week which gives Athletic hope of holding onto the wonderkid. Felipe was unhappy after not being allowed to speak to Man Utd, however Woodgate sat the youngster down and have told him he has the opportunity become a legend at the club and for his country and reminded of how much the club has progressed over the past 4 seasons, anything could be possible in the next few seasons, especially with all the talent and great fan support around him!

The next day, Felipe signed a new 55k a week, with no transfer clause contract until 2019, which is fantastic news for not only the club, but for the whole of Spainish Football. Meanwhile regarding the other promising youngster Xabier, Man Utd, Chelsea and Barcelona are all sniffing around, and he looks like he may become a fantastic central midfielder once his training is complete.

The board have given Woodgate 18 million to spend this season in a hope to return to a top 4 European Finish.

At 32, he has lost his pace, but my word what a player he still is. Athletic Bilbao have secured the signing of one of the best Basque players to ever play, Xabi Alonso, on a 2 year deal, worth 120,000 a week. Although this goes against my normal policy of reasonable contracts, he is the one player who I would happily pay 200,000 a week for, especially on a short 2 year contract and especially at the small price of 1.5 million. (See picture below) With Alonso, Arteta, Javi Martinez and Ander to choose from in the centre of the park, there is no doubt that the front 3 will get the service they will require. However, with Arteta and Alonso both at the age of 32 and with rapidly deteriorating physical stats, this could be an extremely important year for the club!!
 

D.Woodgate

Member
May 28, 2010
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Great story mate, keep it up
Thanks mate! Was beginning to wonder whether people were interested anymore! Been cracking on with the 2014-2015 season and its going pretty well thus far, Llorente is definitely getting better with age and Xabi Alonso is a cracking player, he doesn't seem to give the ball away, even when trying through balls and switches of the play, genius.
 

Poobington

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Jan 7, 2009
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Really like this story but i don't understand the whole blog system :S are you/have you moved it there?
 

W4FC B3N

Member
Jan 10, 2011
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Excellent story! Will be reading this very often and has spurred me to start an Athletic season! Nicely done.
 
Dec 2, 2009
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An even better story than when I first read! keep it up mate, surely sooner or later the league and CL will be yours. keep going!
 

T.Sears

Member
May 12, 2010
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Great work! You've perfectly assembled the best Basque team you could have assembled by now. Hopefully you can secure a Champions League spot :)
 

Niall

H&RB
Mar 11, 2010
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Interesting challenge and well written. Will follow this and your blog if you are planning to transfer it.
 

D.Woodgate

Member
May 28, 2010
66
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Thank you for all your kind words guys, really appreciate all the comments!

Going to try and transfer my story into the blog system over the next few days so I will be sure to keep you all posted regarding that.

If anyone has any questions with regards to a Athletic Club game save, more than happy to give my 2 cents!

Also the 2014-15 Season Update will be due very soon! and I know I have said this almost every season, but what a season it is turning out to be for the Basque Lads!

In the mean time, heres a teasing screenshot of the Development of the Wonderkid Felipe at the start of 2015. Wow.
 

D.Woodgate

Member
May 28, 2010
66
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Really like this story but i don't understand the whole blog system :S are you/have you moved it there?
Hi mate, Glad to hear it! Im planning to move the story into the Blog system in the next few days because the Stories Section is closing. Will let everyone know when I manage to successfully make the move ha.
 

Poobington

Member
Jan 7, 2009
300
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Thank you for all your kind words guys, really appreciate all the comments!

Going to try and transfer my story into the blog system over the next few days so I will be sure to keep you all posted regarding that.

If anyone has any questions with regards to a Athletic Club game save, more than happy to give my 2 cents!

Also the 2014-15 Season Update will be due very soon! and I know I have said this almost every season, but what a season it is turning out to be for the Basque Lads!

In the mean time, heres a teasing screenshot of the Development of the Wonderkid Felipe at the start of 2015. Wow.
This lad looks like an epic player!
 
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