La Liga: Athletic’s presidential elections, a turning point in the club’s history


Friday, the socios of Athletic will elect their future president. If none has a truly revolutionary program, the traditions of the club must be respected, this vote will still mark a turning point in the recent history of the club which wants to modernize and develop without forgetting its values.

If there is a club with a very particular functioning and well attached to its traditions, in Spain but also in Europe, it is Athletic. Everyone already knows the club’s recruitment policy, which can only recruit Basque players, even if there are some exceptions to the rule, since players born in Navarre (a region different from the Basque Country administratively but considered Basque culturally) and non-Basque players trained in the region can also defend the colors red and white. A policy that has borne fruit, since the club is one of three La Liga teams that have never known relegation, has a rather extensive record with 8 Ligas, 24 King’s Cups and regular participation in European competitions.

Tomorrow, a turning point is likely to be written in the history of the club, which has lost some of its luster in recent years despite this title in the Supercup in 2020. Indeed, the more than 43,000 members of the club will vote for their next president, who will take over from an Aitor Elizegi whose management has often been criticized and who has not at all won unanimous support in recent years. And who says new president necessarily says big upheaval internally, especially since this time, the three candidates have promised rather interesting things…

Bielsa or Valverde?

Obviously, there is no question of changing the policy of the club. This is out of the question for socios and other supporters. Even if Athletic could sign Kylian Mbappé or Erling Haaland, Athletic fans are too attached to their tradition and the rare times when the possibility of change was put on the table, it was immediately swept away with a setback. from the hand. On the other hand, on the bench for example, there are no restrictions, and in the past, coaches like Jupp Heynckes or Marcelo Bielsa have sat on the San Mamés bench, as has Marcelino, who has led the team in recent years. seasons, was not from the region. And there is still talk of the Argentinian for these elections, since he has officially made it known that in the event of victory for Iñaki Arechabaleta, he will take over control of the team.

He has even already presented, during a videoconference, his plans for Athletic, having analyzed in full all the matches of the first team, the youth teams, and even the other La Liga teams. In addition to having established individual reports on each player in the squad. Only, Arechabaleta is currently only the outsider, since it is Jon Uriarte who is given favorite. The latter would come with Ernesto Valverde in his suitcases, another coach who has left only good memories on the Bilbao side, and who has been without a club since leaving Barça in January 2020. He is also the coach chosen by the candidate Ricardo Barkala, announced as third and last in the polls, who had once tempted Mauricio Pochettino.

And the transfer window then?

For the transfer window, unlike what can happen in Barcelona for example, it is difficult to promise big names to socios. Antoine Griezmann was briefly mentioned – he is trained at Real Sociedad, therefore eligible to play for Athletic – but the rumor quickly disappeared from the radar. It is towards players like Moncayola (Osasuna) or Guillamon (Valencia), international hopefuls until recently, that the Basques will turn. To convince voters to adhere to their program, the candidates rather work on other issues than the transfer window. How to bring the socios closer to the club? How to continue to develop the club internationally? How to reinforce this strong sense of belonging to Bilbao? This is where you have to stand out. Jon Uriarte, for example, proposes an English model, wishing in particular to take measures to attract and facilitate access to the stadium and the club for the youngest and the oldest.

For example, Arechabaleta is betting on more powerful digital development, and wants to strengthen the Athletic Foundation, for charitable purposes, to undertake social actions in the region. Issues which, from a French point of view, may seem anecdotal or less important, but which are crucial for our Basque friends. The three programs seem in any case to want to insist on one point: first to strengthen the local base, then to succeed in being seen and heard internationally, where the image of the club is still underdeveloped. And inevitably, who says electoral campaign also says polemics. Uriarte, for example, had to part with Carlos Aviña, who was to become its general manager, because of former macho tweets from the Mexican which recently resurfaced. See you on Friday to find out the results of the elections which will mark a turning point in the history of the club.

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