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Thanks to @Ghents and @El Payaso for content!

Athletic de Bilbao, historically, are the third most successful football club in Spain. As well as being one of only three clubs never relegated from the top division of La Liga – there are no prizes for knowing the other two – they are also third in the number of titles won over the years. Sadly for their supporters the last title was won, along with the Copa del Rey, as far back as 1984.

Most football followers know about the long-standing Basque only policy of Athletic, which has been the subject of much debate, but I suspect that fewer are aware of the benefit that this concentration on home-grown players has had to the Spanish national squad. Athletic Bilbao has had more players representing Spain than any other Spanish club – including Real Madrid and Barcelona. The club has continued its tradition of signing players born in the Basque provinces of Spain or France, although in the late 1980s this was broadened to include players who had moved to the region at a young age.
 

HISTORY OF ATHLETIC BILBAO

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Athletic Bilbao Football Club - Founded in 1898 by a group of students from the Gymnasium Zamacois – who adopted the English spelling because they had studied in England – Athletic Bilbao merged with Bilbao Football Club, consisting of mainly ex miners from the north-east of England and shipyard workers from Portsmouth and Southampton, in 1902. After calling themselves Club Vizcaya for a season they reverted to the name Athletic Club de Bilbao in 1903. After playing in blue and white stripes for a few seasons, in 1910 they changed to the red and white they still play in today – the possible reasons for this can be found in the Atlético Madrid article, as the two clubs shared founders and have entwined early histories.

During the early years, the club was immediately successful, frequently winning the Copa del Rey title. The star player of the time is still remembered in Spanish football today as the leading scorer each year is known as the ‘Pichichi’, which is named after the Athletic player who once scored a hat-trick in a Cup Final.

The appointment of English coach Fred Pentland, El Bombín (the Bowler Hat) led to even more success. A great coaching innovator, who was also in charge of Atlético Madrid and the Spanish national team, Pentland was an early advocate of the style that became known in England, much later, as ‘push and run’ when introduced by Arthur Rowe with Tottenham Hotspur. He was not the only English manager employed by the club; in later years, Ronnie Allen and Howard Kendall also coached here. Their choices of headgear, though, went unrecorded! It is, however, known that Kendall found it so frustrating being unable to buy the players he wanted that it was cited as his major reason for leaving the club.

Under Pentland’s stewardship, Athletic won the League – of which the team were founder members in 1928 – and the cup on several occasions, doing the ‘double’ in both 1930 and 1931. In the second of these remarkable seasons, Barcelona were beaten by 12 goals to 1 in Bilbao – a result which is never likely to be repeated.

All of the games in Bilbao were played at the club’s present stadium, San Mamés, named after a nearby church. This has led to the stadium being known as ‘The Cathedral’, although the atmosphere – especially when Real Madrid are in town – can hardly be compared with one! As well as being known as the ‘Rojiblancos’ because of their colours the team is also referred to as ‘Los Leones’ (the lions) as St Mames himself was an early Christian that the lions had refused to kill.

There was a period when the club had to change its name to Atlético Bilbao, as a result of a decision by Franco to outlaw non-Spanish names and languages. During the 1950s, however, the government’s severe restrictions on foreign-born players in the league greatly helped the Basque club who won several league and cup titles in this time and, in 1956, entered the then-named European Cup for the first time. The club’s successes all helped give the Basque people a sense of identity at a time when they felt very isolated in Spain. There was a famous incident in December 1975, just 15 days after the death of Franco, in which Iribar and Kortabarria, rival captains of Athletic and Real Sociedad, carried the Basque flag – illegal at the time – onto the pitch before a local derby.

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RECENT SUCCESS

Bilbao finished up their 2013-14 campaign with a fourth place finish and shot to secure Champion's League football, which they did with a victory over Napoli. Unfortunately Bilbao fell short, finishing third in their group behind both Shakhtar and FC Porto then later were knocked out of the EURO by Serie A side Torino. Bilbao managed to make it to the finals of the Copa del Ray as well, but once again fell short with a 3-1 loss to Barcelona. The club were able to get redemption however, with the ageless Artiz Aduriz scoring a hat-trick in a 4-0 victory against Barcelona in the 2015-2016 Super Cup and also capturing a draw at Camp Nou later in the season. Aduriz ended his resurgent 2015-2016 season with 36 goals in all competitions and getting a call of to the Spain national team for Euro 2016. The club secured a spot in the EURO with a fifth place finish in the 2015-2016 season thanks to not only contributions from Aduriz, but also from some of their more promising first team youth players. 

In 2016-17 the club enjoyed another consistent season coached by Ernesto Valverde, finishing 7th in the league and requalifying for the Europa League (3rd qualifying round) for 17-18. Heralded as a potential winner of the Europa League in 16-17, the club lost in the round of 32 to Apoel Nicosia in a surprising result. Following the 16-17 season, coach Ernesto Valverde moved on to Barcelona after a successful spell at the club. Athletic made the decision to promote Kuko Ziganda from the B team to take control of the first team squad. 

RIVALRIES

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The largest one in Spain sees you facing Real Sociedad in a Basque derby. Other rivalries are with another Basque teams Eibar and Osasuna and also competitive rivalries with Barcelona and Real Madrid. Osasuna and Sociedad in particular are also the other main producers of Basque players, but good luck signing any of them. It's exceedingly difficult to pry players from one club to the other, which is how intense the rivalry is. When playing as Athletic, you can expect to sign players on the odd occasion from these clubs, and it gets easier if you're able to build a solid difference in reputation between the sides, however even at that stage, some players will refuse the move. This is something of an unexpected challenge to many newcomers to managing Athletic, in that the majority of Basque players capable of improving the team do not want to join.

WHY ATHLETIC CLUB?

It's one of the more challenging saves in all of FM, because you are limited to signing only players with Basque heritage or players in Spain who are no older than 16 years old. It forces you to focus on utilizing what you have in the squad to the best of their ability and developing your youth and figuring out what you want the DNA of the club to be long term. This offers two different ways to play as Athletic Club:

1) Use the signing of Spanish U16 players to provide a wider base to pick from, or for an added challenge...
2) Only sign Basque players of any age, and do not sign any spanish U16 players unless they already hold Basque nationality. 


Athletic Club have one of the best youth setups in the game, so you can churn out prospects to replenish your first team and keep it home grown. You aren't buying any trophies here with a Tycoon.

At the start of the game, some key players are ageing, so you'll need to start preparing for the future...

Edited by bowieinspace

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*This post has been edited to reflect 18.3 winter data update

 

The First Team

Athletic have a strong squad capable of challenging for Europe, with mostly good depth throughout the team. Let's take a look at each section of the team and some of the key players in each area:


Goalkeepers

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Here you are blessed with one of the most highly rated young Spanish Keepers, Kepa Arrizabalaga:

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Kepa is a fantastic shot stopper who is solid across all areas. He looked likely to leave the club this season in January, but ended up signing a massive new contract, he's now tied down for many years, but keep an eye on his release clause in case there's some serious interest from elsewhere.

Aside from Kepa, Iago Herrerin is a capable backup, while Alex Remiro can offer competition for the back up keeper spot when he returns from loan at the end of the season.

 

Defenders

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Athletic have good depth across the defensive lines.

Inigo Martinez - Signed recently from Real Sociedad to replace the Man City bound Aymeric Laporte. Inigo Martinez is a fantastic leader in the heart of defence. He's strong, aggressive and possesses excellent skills with the ball at his feet. 

Mikel San Jose - Can be partnered with Martinez at centre back and is also a very good ball player, however in real life has spent much more time as a defensive shield in the midfield strata. On FM18 he is natural in the DM role and can also play well in central midfield. Depending on your tactics you may wish to employ him in either area, and he will provide an excellent option in both. 

Unai Nunez - Has had a significant buff on the 18.3 patch and now represents a fanatstic first team option off the rip, with significant potential to improve. He has a fantastic attribute spread and could easily slot in next to Martinez, especially if you preferred to utilise San Jose's talents in a midfield role.

Yeray - After coming into the squad from the B team last season and making an immediate impression, the unfortunate Yeray has significant health issues. He has excellent potential but is unavailable for selection until mid November in game due to cancer treatment. When he returns, he will be right up there fighting for a starting place - perhaps now doesn't have the in game potential of Nunez, but is certainly close behind and is another very good ball player. 

Xabi Etxeita - A good back up option, however with the above 4 players all feasibly ahead of him in the pecking order, he may struggle for minutes and be worth cashing in on.

Oscar De Marcos - The versatile player who can play almost anywhere on the pitch. The former attacking midfielder has been converted to right back and is the best player in the squad in this position. Capable both attacking and defending, De Marcos is a hard worker who not only fills the right back spot well, but can cover pretty much anywhere when required.

Mikel Balenziaga is a consistent, if not world class left back. He will provide a good solid option there for a good few years. Inigo Lekue is a talented young right back who can hold down the spot in his own right - certainly one to give game time. While the young centre backs Unai Nunez and Yeray show real potential.

Inigo Lekue - A solid right back prospect who can be rotated with De Marcos immediately and has room to improve. Be sure to give him plenty of match time in the first season to help him develop.

Cristian Ganea & Enric Saborit - Very similar players overall. Saborit is out of contact at the end of the season, at the same time Ganea joins the club properly...if I were you I wouldn't renew Saborit's contract as Ganea is already coming and can provide backup for Balenziaga.


Central Midfielders

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Athletic have a natural defensive/creative pairing for a midfield two, in either Benat/San Jose or Benat/Iturraspe. Whether you go with Iturraspe or San Jose will most likely depend on where you fit San Jose into the team, and any squad rotation. 

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Benat is the key player in the midfield as he's the man who will link defence and attack for you. Without Benat, Athletic's central midfield lacks any creative presence (in the DM/CM roles at least). Very capable in any play making role (and would likely be a solid Segundo Volante if you preferred a deeper midfield pair) he will be a key player in your first season.

Mikel Vesga provides good cover for San Jose/Iturraspe, while the ageing Mikel Rico can do a decent covering job in more of a box to box type role in the shorter term.

 

Attacking Midfielders

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Athletic have fantastic strength in the attacking midfield strata, so with the central pairings mentioned above, it gives Athletic a natural inclination towards a 4-2-3-1 in some form. 

Raul Garcia - A key player in this area, the aim is to get him scoring. He's a natural shadow striker who is also reasonably creative, so can offer a few different role options to fit your system. While he's not best suited to the playmaker role in my opinion, if you prefer to have a central attacking playmaker, he can do it. Personally, with Benat in the central midfield area, I think you have the freedom to allow Raul Garcia to focus on getting the goals. He can also play as a central midfielder if you prefer a 4-1-2-3 formation, and can also cover the striker role, which as you'll see shortly is very important.

Iker Muniain - Iker prefers a left sided role, and while naturally suited to an inside forward role, he's a creative influence who can also play as an advanced playmaker. He can also play centrally as needed and is well suited to that.

Inaki Williams is a pacey right winger with some room to develop at only 23, he is a natural fit for the right side, however with the experienced Markel Susaeta also looking for game time in that position, Inaki offers a good option to either play wide left as an inside forward or up top as a very different kind of threat to Aduriz, which given the lack of depth up front is very important.

While this team is very heavily inclinated towards Muniain, Garcia and Williams/Susaeta being a 3 man attacking midfield unit, you don't want to overlook young Inigo Cordoba. He has seen a significant buff in the recent patch and is now ready for first team football straight away. He has the potential to improve and if developed correctly, could become a top La Liga winger.

 

Strikers

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Oh dear.

While you're ok for season one here, this is an area of concern. Aduriz is still very capable at 36, however at that age is likely to decline throughout the season. He will also need cover, with Kike Sola not really being good enough. This means you're likely to use Williams or Raul Garcia as options to rotate with Aduriz, which also allows your good depth in the AM strata to come in to play. Post season one, you're not going to get much more from Aduriz, and Raul Garcia/Williams, while capable, are not natural strikers. 

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Tactical Options

In terms of playing style, Athletic can offer multiple options due to fantastic variety in the squad and this is perhaps their biggest strength. Benat and Muniain in particular provide a creative option, and the team in general can play a short passing game without trouble. In contrast to that, you have the pace and direct play of Williams to offer a different option, alongside the physicality of Aduriz and Raul Garcia. Don't be afraid to play the ball in the air or get crosses in, as Aduriz and Garcia are two of the best aerial players around.

As mentioned above, Athletic's squad balanced naturally suits a 4-2-3-1 due to the excellent selection of attacking midfielders, or perhaps a 4-1-2-3. Athletic's lack of true strikers make a two man forward line more difficult simply because there's not many options to rotate. However Muniain, Sabin, Williams and Aduriz can all do well in various striker roles, so it is possible if you're that way inclined.

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As you can see in a 4-2-3-1 Athletic have players naturally suited to their roles. Benat is capable as a DLP, however in the midfield strata he can act as any form of playmaker depending on your system. Iturraspe, San Jose and Vesga are all well suited to provide a shield for the defensive line. It will be important to find balance on the flanks, and I'd recommend keeping Balenziaga on a support duty on the left, allowing you to have your defensively minded midfielder on the right side. This means the defensive midfielder on the right can cover the attacking combination of De Marcos/Williams on that flank if needs be.

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Athletic are also well suited to a 4-1-2-3. Iturraspe, Vesga or San Jose can once again shield the defence, while Benat can pull the springs. Raul Garcia isn't perfectly suited to the central midfield role, but with adequate cover behind him, he can have license to attack the box and support Aduriz, or alternatively as per my screenshot, Mikel Rico offers a fantastic option in this role.  Aduriz can work well in a number of roles here depending on what you wanted to achieve from the playing style.

Martinez and San Jose can both play the ball out from the back, certainly I'd recommend having Martinez at least on a ball playing role. San Jose can play as a normal central defender if you don't want two players in the BPD role, and this can work well if you want to rotate in Nunez to sit alongside Martinez. Yeray can cover either role on his return as well!

Edited by bowieinspace

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*N.b. this post has been updated to reflect the 18.3 winter data update

 

Athletic Bilbao – A guide to building from the bottom up

Athletic Club are a team built from within, their record of retaining their La Liga status despite only signing players from the local region is unrivalled anywhere in the world. In recent years since the world of big TV money began, with more players travelling overseas this in theory should have become a much tougher task for Athletic Club. Indeed Athletic have regularly lost big name players over recent years, such as Fernando Llorente, Ander Herrera and Javi Martinez, but there has always been one thing to keep things together and bring year on year development….Lezama. 

Lezama is the club’s academy, and of the current first team squad most have come through Athletic Club’s own academy. Some players left to develop elsewhere before returning (that is a common theme at Athletic, e.g. Benat), and you should always write buy back clauses into player sales. Athletic’s focus on youth and confidence in their academy is so strong, they often turn down the opportunity to recruit other Basque talent to give their academy players a chance. Such a philosophy is a breath of fresh air in the modern footballing world, and one of the reasons I was attracted to Athletic Club on a personal level. In game, you do have the option of signing 16 year old Spaniards to help build a stronger academy. However the purist may prefer to avoid this, and only sign players of Basque nationality at any age – this is also a great way to make an Athletic save just a touch more difficult. It basically becomes a youth academy challenge, with just a few other clubs you’re likely to be able to pluck youngsters from (who normally won't sell to you).

 

Recruitment of youngsters

Be sure to keep a close eye on the academies of Osasuna and Real Sociedad. This is where the best Basque youngsters are most likely going to come through, however (especially with Sociedad) be prepared to be patient or pay over the odds as the rivalry is a fierce one and player loyalty runs deep in the region.

Fortunately, Athletic’s own academy can make the club largely self-sufficient. The structure of B teams and C teams in Football Manager has become more immersive and generally deeper over recent versions, meaning the reserve teams are a more viable way to develop young talent than they used to be.

 

The Current Crop

At the start of your save, Athletic’s youth players are split between Bilbao Athletic (B team) and Baskonia (C Team) and the under 19s team, so before making any squad changes it’s imperative you get to know the players in these teams. Some of them won’t make it, but a lot of them will provide good depth for the first team with some being able to make an immediate impact. One of the biggest things when managing Athletic Club if you're new to the team, is remembering that any player could become important....when managing Athletic, you need to be flexible, you'll need players with lower star ratings for depth, and you'll need to build a tactic around effective players sometimes who might not necessarily be the best in terms of star ratings.

 

Bilbao Athletic & CD Baskonia

Two seasons ago Bilbao Athletic played in the Segunda, a big step up from the 3rd tier. This was a great opportunity for these players to showcase their skills and challenge for a role in the first team. However the Segunda is a tough division of seasoned pros, and the young Bilbao Athletic team lacked the experience to challenge in the division and were relegated. Even with that, some youngsters really showed their quality and have earned their opportunities with the first team. Others were either loaned out last season to Segunda clubs to continue their development, while others stayed with the B team in Segunda B.

Baskonia play in the regional division, and to be honest, in game I tend to use them as a dumping ground for those players who are realistically never going to contribute to the first team as their division is inactive. However at the start of the game the team has a number of potential first team talents worth keeping an eye on. I won't post specific screenshots of players as most (both B, C and under 19s) have a variable potential that could land anywhere within a set range, meaning the same player on one save could be a Segunda level player, while in the next save could be a solid La Liga prospect. It's down to you to keep an eye on these players and track their development - just because someone only has a 2 star potential, don't dump them.....loan them, get them games and the right training schedules, they may contribute in the future.

Please note, players will sometimes begin each save in different reserve teams and with different potential ratings, so don't take the below screenshots as gospel. I have also cut any very low star ratings to save space on the images.


The key players from Bilbao Athletic (B Team):

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The key players from Baskonia (C Team)

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The key players from the under 19s

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Those Immediately ready for some first team action:

Oscar Gil (defensive mid/centre back) – Did very well as a centre back last season having transitioned from a midfield role. Spent last season on loan at Oviedo in Liga Adelante, and will be a solid prospect for the first team. He has potential to improve, so either loan him out for experience in a higher division or make sure he gets some first team appearances from the bench at some stage. While never likely to be a nailed on starter, he can cover both central defence/midfield well and could be a good rotational option given time.


Starting on Loan but require attention for Season Two:

Unai Lopez (attacking midfield) – A bright talent at Lezama and he has played plenty of first team minutes already. For a few years now on FM he has been the brightest youth talent at Athletic Club. This year that is perhaps no longer the case, however Unai Lopez is still likely to be a key first team player for many years and should be developed carefully. He may need tutoring at the start of the game, so be sure to check his key stats.  He often starts with a low determination stat, so be sure to tutor this, However he begins the game on loan at Rayo Vallecano. Alongside Oscar Gil, he is perhaps the most certain player to be able to contribute to the first team due to being a bit older and more set in his abilities/potential.

Markel Etxeberria (right back) - Never going to be a 4* star, but a solid attribute distribution makes him a potential cover option in the future. Especially with the emergence of Lekue, his usefulness in FM has perhaps diminished somewhat, but could definitely be a good cover option for the future. 

Asier Villalibre (centre forward) – Someone who came through Lezama looking most likely to carry the mantle from Aduriz, however has stagnated over the last couple of years. Still has the potential to be a decent player so keep an eye on him, but is unlikely to be your future starting striker.


Future Options and Prospects

Oihan Sancet - In real life, perhaps considered the brightest young talent at Lezama and arguably the best Athletic Club youngster on FM18 as well, who caused a stir after signing from Osasuna (which very much upset the Pamplona based club). In FM his potential is definitely there. Probably not quite good enough for the B team at the start of the game, and at 17 is just starting to really need some game time. Could be left at the C team but personally I would bring him up, have him tutored and put a bit more attention to his development...perhaps even a few minutes off the bench in easier games. He should rise to a level suitable for the B team quite quickly.

Beyond these players, there are a host of youngsters who could contribute to the first team, for example Javi Rudi, Asier Arana, Ruben Azcona, Dani Vivian, Asier Arana, Xabier Naveira, Oier Zarraga, Jon Morcillo and Youssef Diarra. However you'll need to take a look at them and many others specifically in your save as their potential/development differs from game to game.

 

There two main ways you can play as Athletic, either buying up 16 year old Spaniards to hoard talent and make sure they gain Basque nationality, or working carefully with the Bilbao academy players and signing players from the region. Either way, Lezama is an important part of Athletic Club and something that must be taken seriously. When you can only sign Basque players, developing strength in depth is much tougher than at other clubs. If a player is only 2-3 gold star potential, don’t discard them….work with them, develop their key attributes so they can effective first team players, and they may just surprise you. If you're playing as Athletic for the first time, and you're used to signing players based on star ratings to squad build, be prepared to change your approach...you'll need to utilise everyone!

Edited by bowieinspace

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N.b. this post has been updated to reflect the 18.3 winter data update

Recruitment

 

Tips for recruitment and scouting

I usually run with the following player filters saved on the player search screen, so I can quickly flick through the options important to me:

Filter 1: All Basque Players
Nationality IS Basque, and Realistic transfer equals unticked

Filter 2: Realistic Basque Players
Nationality IS Basque, and realistic transfer equals ticked

Filter 3: All Basque Youth Players
Nationality IS Basque, and age is at most 17 (or 18 if you prefer), realistic transfer equals unticked

Filter 4: Realistic Basque Youth Players
Nationality IS Basque, and age is at most 17 (or 18 if you prefer), realistic transfer equals ticked

If you are keen to also recruit Spaniards of 16 years of age, you can just adjust the youth filters by adding "Nationality is Basque OR nationality is Spanish", Age is at most 16. That will allow you to see Spaniards who you could sign who would then gain Basque nationality later.


Youth Intake Day and the period immediately after

Make sure you immediately scout all youth players from Eibar, Real Sociedad, Osasuna and any other Basque clubs who are doing well on the game. I then use the general player search screen to find anyone who has appeared at another club.

I look at a combination of star rating and attributes once the scout has 100% knowledge. Generally I won't pursue anyone with less than 2 gold star potential. Above that, 3 gold star or above potential I always sign, 2 or 2.5 I base it more on the attribute spread and my general feeling on the player (e.g. whether they look pretty good already and perhaps the scout is wrong, or whether they might fit a certain role and perform above their level later). If you are signing any Spanish 16 year old, you can probably be a bit more picky. 

Once I feel I may sign them but don't want to pull the trigger straight away (or can't), I add them to my shortlist and re-scout every month to see any changes in price/wage or ability. 


Scouting

A good scouting structure for Athletic Club can work as follows:

Scout 1 - Next opposition
Scout 2 - Scouting La Liga, any player age
Scout 3 - Scouting Segunda (Liga 123), any player age
Scout 4 - Scouting Segunda (Liga 123), under 19s only
Scout 5 - Scouting France nation, under 19s only (you could have another scout doing all ages here if you feel it necessary)
Scouts 6 and 7 - Scouting Segunda B (3rd tier), under 19s only

You can of course add a few extras, however I tend to find after the first couple of seasons any outliers (e.g. notable Basque players who have moved abroad) you know of anyway and can scout separately. This combined with the player search filters should mean you don't miss any potential talent. 

 

Top Basque Players Outside of Athletic

At the start of the game, you have one transfer organised for the future, Ander Capa from Eibar:

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Ander Capa is a highly rated right back. Now you might be thinking that this seems a slightly unnecessary signing with Inigo Lekue and De Marcos holding down that position, but the key is flexibility. Ander Capa is a very attacking full back who can play as a wing back, or even further up the field in a wide attacking role. Lekue offers much the same, and De Marcos can play anywhere. Currently the Athletic squad looks likely to shift around in the coming years, with Aduriz fading out, this could mean Williams shifts up front, or Raul Garcia. This would open up positions further up the pitch, and De Marcos, Lekue or Capa could end up playing primarily in a more advanced position. This is a smart option for the future which could help (in an indirect way) with the lack of striker options.

The Dream

There are a number of big name Basque players who might provide an option for the future, depending on how their careers go at their respective clubs:

Antoine Griezmann - On an extremely high wage and a player who could fit into any starting 11...good luck getting the former Sociedad man to Athletic, but would be an absolute no brainer if he became available.

Aymeric Laporte - Now at Manchester City following his sale this January. Sadly it will be almost impossible to bring him back to San Mames, but you never know. His wages are within range, but his availability will depend on how he gets on at Man City.

Javi Martinez - Former Athletic player who left on quite bad terms after buying out his own contract to join Bayern. Injury prone (knee problems) and expensive, he presents a risk. However in previous FM's has often become available after a season or so. If you sign him, expect cruciate ligament injuries regularly, but if the club is doing well financially he could be worth the risk.

Cesar Azpilicueta - Perhaps the top player who is realistically achievable to sign within the first few seasons. It will cost a lot to bring him in, but he's a player who brings immense quality, and can play anywhere across the back line. With Balenziaga getting older, he could provide an improvement in the left back position if you do well in the first few years.

Ander Herrera - The Manchester United midfielder, formerly of Athletic, looks unlikely to return in real life. However in game, given United's strength in midfield it's very possible a lack of game time will see him wanting to move on. With wages within Athletic's budget, it's definitely a possibility and he would offer real quality over a number of years, with more longevity than Benat. 

Mikel Merino - On loan with an option to buy at Newcastle, it seems unlikely he'd be available anytime soon...but keep an eye on him. If you're able to bring him in, he will provide a solid midfield option and will be a natural replacement for Benat. 

Yuri - The former Real Sociedad left back joined PSG last summer and is a strong basque full back, and would be a slight improvement on Balenziaga. Perhaps the weaker of the players in this category, but also often the most readily available. His wages will be high but he's a good option in the left back role if you want an alternative to Balenziaga.

 

Sociedad Players

These guys basically fall into their own category, because signing them can be almost impossible. 

Asier Illaramendi - An excellent deep lying playmaker, who at 27 has years ahead of him.

Mikel Oyarzabal - An attacking midfielder with massive potential. Given Raul Garcia is ageing, and Unai Lopez looks likely to be a decent option at best, if you were able to bring in Oyarzabal it would be a real coup as he could hold down that position for years.

Alvaro Odriozola - A player who has shot onto the scene in the last 12-18 months. A right back, which is a position Athletic is not short in by any means, but he's a right back who could be world class. Definitely keep an eye on him as he'll be better than anyone currently at Athletic.

Ruben Pardo - Good central playmaker, could be very good indeed if he develops well.

Aritz Elustondo - Another basque right back...If you wanted a more defensive option he's well worth a look. Will be a good La Liga player for a long time so a solid addition for any squad.

Realistically, the best chance you have of signing any Sociedad players is if they get snapped up by a big team, but then don't get game time. There are a few others less talented players who could become good options, but realistically you are likely to have better prospects through the academy at Athletic anyway.

 

More Realistic Options for the First Two Seasons

Given Athletic's squad is largely capable, there aren't many options out there who are worth picking up at the start of the game. However Athletic have a decent transfer budget at the start of the game, so if you had a few bad injuries in pre season, the following could be potential options.

Roberto Torres - The Osasuna man is too good for Segunda football, he would provide good cover in central and attacking midfield but wouldn't improve the team in his own right. If Benat got a bad injury, he would definitely be worth a look.

Antonio Otegui - The Osasuna central midfielder is a youngster at 19 with development required, however he could provide a good depth option and is a prospect as a future first team player. Should be a realistic option for the first window.

Dani Garcia - If you want to look for someone more in the Mikel Rico mold, then look no further. At Eibar who aren't keen to sell, he would add depth to the midfield in a box to box type role.

Isma Lopez - Ex Athletic academy player who has been at Gijon for a number of years. A left back who is on a similar level to Enric Saborit (perhaps a little better though). If you didn't fancy Saborit, Isma Lopez would offer a more attacking option to Balenziaga on the left side.

David Garcia and Jonas Ramalho would both provide centre back options, but with Athletics depth in this year, not really necessary.

Jonathan Espericueta - The mexican with Basque nationality...you will need to set specific database options for him to be loaded into the game. A decent prospect, but worth noting due to him playing in the Mexican league. Be sure to load him up, he could be useful!

Stephane Ruffier - A french basque who is a goalkeeper for St Etienne. A very good player, but with Kepa holding down the number 1 spot, he'd only be worth a look if you lost Kepa on a long term injury or someone hit his release clause.

Nacho Monreal - The Arsenal left back could be picked up, but he's not young anymore and is perhaps not really any better than Balenziaga, or perhaps only offers a very short term option.

Javi Martinez - No, not THAT Javi Martinez! There's another one at Osasuna who players as an attacking midfielder. Good potential, available immediately.


Realistically you're unlikely to need to bring in any players in the first season, with Isma Lopez perhaps the most realistic option who could genuinely add something to the team. Other options are there if you need them due to injuries or a release clause being hit with an existing player. Players like Otegui and Javi Martinez are no brainers to bring in as development prospects.

 

The Striker Situation

The lack of strikers at Athletic, and any top youngsters in this position is a massive concern. It will likely be a bit of a patchwork job until a good regen comes around... Aduriz can do a good job for 1 or maybe 2 years, so the signing of Ander Capa at right back will be very important. This can allow De Marcos to cover further up the pitch, allowing Inaki Williams to play up front more often. There are a few options you can look at to provide another options:

Jon Bautista - At Sociedad, decent enough but never going to be world class. Can be a good depth option for a few years.

Imanol Agirretxe - Again at Sociedad...a good all round striker but certainly not the quickest. If both him and Bautista were available as a short term fix, you'd just need to lean towards the one who would fit your preferred playing style.

Fernando Llorente - Ageing, but the best player out there who might be available in the near future. Wouldn't go down well with the fans though...


That only leaves one realistic option:

THE RETURN OF GAIZKA TOQUERO

:brock:

Contracts

When you start the game, always check release clauses throughout the team. The last thing you want managing Athletic is not being aware a players release clause is within reach and losing them unexpectedly. In recent months Inaki Williams and Kepa have both signed extremely long contracts (till 2025!), however their release clauses are still within reach, so you may wish to attempt to increase these at some stage.

Edited by bowieinspace

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Great!!! Aupa Athleticzaleak! (something like Aupa Athletic's supporters)

Do you suggest to start a new save or continue with the beta save is fine?

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I've never done an Athletic save before but I think they're definitely on my agenda for this year, especially after reading The European Game.

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Finally I decide to use the 4-2-3-1.

5a0607ee0938d_ScreenShot2017-11-10at5_08_30PM.thumb.png.e47d04d99f1cc65594213b54ab8d3f9e.png

Only lost 2 matches so far, against St. Johnstone at the Europa League debut and against Viktoria Pilzen at the group stage debut.

At La Liga we have won 6 of 7 and we tied against Real Madrid at home, a game we should have done better because they played with 10 for more than half game and we started winning 1-0.

5a06081d6f474_ScreenShot2017-11-10at5_09_26PM.thumb.png.15599f3b5aee1f5af07a84b9cbc99d9f.png

Currently top of the league and now we will have to face Barcelona. Real Madrid struggling at the beginning, I hope they've already lost so many points to not consider them for the fight.

5a06089b12e5a_ScreenShot2017-11-10at5_09_01PM.thumb.png.4630fc94bd814f2a7abb042c2f397ae9.png

After losing in the debut we could get a good win with almost bench players against Lokomotiv. The group is not hard and we are trying to go through without using our best players.

5a06091d98bd6_ScreenShot2017-11-10at5_16_07PM.png.17b7a0272316e00785bf5a63ac2d4d04.png

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6 hours ago, Ricotero_uy said:

Great!!! Aupa Athleticzaleak! (something like Aupa Athletic's supporters)

Do you suggest to start a new save or continue with the beta save is fine?

I don't think anything has changed significantly from the beta

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1 hour ago, Jonny2J said:

I've never done an Athletic save before but I think they're definitely on my agenda for this year, especially after reading The European Game.

It's a fantastic save with plenty of challenges, well worth a look

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I already started my big save with Leyton Orient .. but after reading this page i really don't know what do to.

I read a lot (and also the topic from last year) and i'm afraid that after a few season i'll start losing my focus because i'm limited in signing (free / end of contract) players . Another small problem is that i like to play without wingers ( a 4-4-2 narrow diamond or a 4-3-2-1 narrow) and that is also something unreal for bilbao ?

Looking for the last piece of positieve input to start with Bilbao untill FM19 ... :)

Edited by Olivierlandman

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55 minutes ago, Olivierlandman said:

I already started my big save with Leyton Orient .. but after reading this page i really don't know what do to.

I read a lot (and also the topic from last year) and i'm afraid that after a few season i'll start losing my focus because i'm limited in signing (free / end of contract) players . Another small problem is that i like to play without wingers ( a 4-4-2 narrow diamond or a 4-3-2-1 narrow) and that is also something unreal for bilbao ?

Looking for the last piece of positieve input to start with Bilbao untill FM19 ... :)

If you think you’ll lose focus, well all you can do is give it a go and see :) it’s not for everyone.

in regards to narrow formations, yes you definitely can do that. Muniain can play as an AMC or false 9 type striker, while Inaki Williams can play up front. In the longer term, you just have to be adaptable in terms of retraining young players to suit your system...if you see a good winger come through the youth intake you can just start training them to another role.

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I really enjoyed my last sage with AB on FM17 unsure if I wil start with 18 because after a while the lack of transfers really bothered me needles to say was a great challenge and will be keeping a eye on this thread who knows maybe the challenge may call me back again god luck to everyone 

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4 hours ago, bowieinspace said:

If you think you’ll lose focus, well all you can do is give it a go and see :) it’s not for everyone.

in regards to narrow formations, yes you definitely can do that. Muniain can play as an AMC or false 9 type striker, while Inaki Williams can play up front. In the longer term, you just have to be adaptable in terms of retraining young players to suit your system...if you see a good winger come through the youth intake you can just start training them to another role.

How’s the wonder kid Santamaria end up in the end for you 

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50 minutes ago, Chappy2509 said:

How’s the wonder kid Santamaria end up in the end for you 

Attribute wise amazing, performances were disappointing. In the end it was hard to warm to him. As I had a 'universality' thing going on with that save, his attributes were very well rounded but I could have focused his development more and made him into a real monster of a centre forward perhaps

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9 hours ago, bowieinspace said:

If you think you’ll lose focus, well all you can do is give it a go and see :) it’s not for everyone.

in regards to narrow formations, yes you definitely can do that. Muniain can play as an AMC or false 9 type striker, while Inaki Williams can play up front. In the longer term, you just have to be adaptable in terms of retraining young players to suit your system...if you see a good winger come through the youth intake you can just start training them to another role.

Thanks for the reply, i'm going to decide this morning what i'm going to do :)

Also read the BIlbao part in the book Jonny2 mentioned, great tip !

 

Edited by Olivierlandman

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i started ! created al my views for my youth dev .

It's not easy to fit Williams, Iker, Susaeta in different roles.  Williams for poacher , Iker for Central midfield attack (hmm ?) and Susuata also poacher..

i hope this is my game untill FM19 is out :) i'll try to post updates here.

 

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I have a question about my C team . When i click on the CD Basconia - staff i see the manager is 'Ander Alana'

If i go to staff responsibilities , i can't select Alana as manager, only the manager from Bilbao Athletic - Gaizka Garitano.

I think i can only control my u19 staff , is that right ?

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10 hours ago, bowieinspace said:

Attribute wise amazing, performances were disappointing. In the end it was hard to warm to him. As I had a 'universality' thing going on with that save, his attributes were very well rounded but I could have focused his development more and made him into a real monster of a centre forward perhaps

Bit of luck you will get anover monster of a Regen in your next fm18 game 

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On 10.11.2017 at 21:17, Ricotero_uy said:

Finally I decide to use the 4-2-3-1.

5a0607ee0938d_ScreenShot2017-11-10at5_08_30PM.thumb.png.e47d04d99f1cc65594213b54ab8d3f9e.png

Only lost 2 matches so far, against St. Johnstone at the Europa League debut and against Viktoria Pilzen at the group stage debut.

At La Liga we have won 6 of 7 and we tied against Real Madrid at home, a game we should have done better because they played with 10 for more than half game and we started winning 1-0.

5a06081d6f474_ScreenShot2017-11-10at5_09_26PM.thumb.png.15599f3b5aee1f5af07a84b9cbc99d9f.png

Currently top of the league and now we will have to face Barcelona. Real Madrid struggling at the beginning, I hope they've already lost so many points to not consider them for the fight.

5a06089b12e5a_ScreenShot2017-11-10at5_09_01PM.thumb.png.4630fc94bd814f2a7abb042c2f397ae9.png

After losing in the debut we could get a good win with almost bench players against Lokomotiv. The group is not hard and we are trying to go through without using our best players.

5a06091d98bd6_ScreenShot2017-11-10at5_16_07PM.png.17b7a0272316e00785bf5a63ac2d4d04.png

 

This looks quite good, could you elaborate on player instructions and OIs?

 

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Does anybody know if its possible to manage what PPMs the players in the Athletic Club B and C team should learn? In my save with Athletic Club it's not possible to manage the PPMs of the players in the B and C team because the option is greyed out. The only way I can learn the youth players PPMs is by having them tutored by a first-team player.

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After the first game in la liga i tried to make a different tactic (i played a 4-4-2 narrow diamond and won the first game, didn't like the roles for Iker, Williams and Garcia)

A mix from strikerless (movement and space) - ball possession - pressing as a unit (high) 

Screen_Hunter_100_Nov_12_19_28.jpg

Movement and space : Strikerless - using my AMC as a targetmen - overlap - roam and be more expressive

Possession : Play out of defence - work ball into box - dribble less

Press as a unit : Play Narrower - Fluid - Push Higher up - close down more - Tighter marking - Prevent short GK distribution .

Because of the space behind my defence , i hope that the offside trap will work.

 

I think this will be closer to the Bilbao(Bielsa) Dna ?  Only played one game and won 4-1 against espanyol.

Edited by Olivierlandman

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15 hours ago, el_locoman said:

Does anybody know if its possible to manage what PPMs the players in the Athletic Club B and C team should learn? In my save with Athletic Club it's not possible to manage the PPMs of the players in the B and C team because the option is greyed out. The only way I can learn the youth players PPMs is by having them tutored by a first-team player.

Can you promote them to the first team, start the PPM training and then make them available for B/C team games but not move them back down? Might be a work around

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On 11/12/2017 at 10:27, Time_Consumer said:

 

This looks quite good, could you elaborate on player instructions and OIs?

 

OIs are done by the AM and the player instructions are there in the tactic. Most of them are automatic set by the tactic or the role. I prefer the better role for each player than a fixed role for the tactic where players may not feel that its their best.

Athletic 4-2-3-1.fmf

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First update :

bilbao_update_oktober_17.png

Screen_Hunter_100_Nov_13_23_08.jpg

Screen_Hunter_100_Nov_13_23_06.jpg

My 2-5-3 strikerless is going good ! Used this formation since the getafe fixture. Only conceded one goal in la liga. After my game against Eibar i lost a few important players.. i'm without a left wingback for 4/5 weeks and Lekeu is playing WBL..  He was injured after 30 minutes against Real Madrid and had to bring on Iker (after a bad injury / after eibar) and put Inaki on the WBL....

Pressing as a good high unit is going good, front three are moving and doing the things i want..

Edited by Olivierlandman

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Season 2017/18 Update 2

An excellent run from the last update. 6 straight wins in La Liga before our draw in the last minutes (goal by Ibai Gomez) against Alaves. We also won 3 matches in the EL and the first match in Copa del Rey against Mallorca. The team is not scoring the great number of chances created. Probably those chances are not so clear. I reduce the number of shots using Work ball into the box instruction. 

5a0c4ce9e2b89_ScreenShot2017-11-15at11_15_01AM.thumb.png.3432da8b8dcc6cd371fd4ecf774947d6.png

6 points ahead of Atletico and 7 ahead of Barcelona. The batlle for the title (I think at this point we are able to fight for it) is against them. Real Madrid is out of contention imo.

5a0c4dd2e3f88_ScreenShot2017-11-15at11_15_18AM.thumb.png.8c34df3f01d80d52514e13b0462aab33.png

After losing the first match against Viktoria Plzen we won the other 3 matches and now we have the revenge against the czech team to qualify first in the group. Both teams are already qualified for the next round.

5a0c4e1396823_ScreenShot2017-11-15at11_15_35AM.png.8f34e42afac9355a797792e11c684ea5.png

Team Stats. I didn't include some of the youth players that were used in a couple of EL and Copa del Rey matches.

5a0c4e5bd8c81_ScreenShot2017-11-15at11_18_19AM.thumb.png.007dfd10b197a789d53d55d26b7f6bc7.png

5a0c4e673942a_ScreenShot2017-11-15at11_18_54AM.thumb.png.11e65e6a5dd5e7ac71e22c00ae42b04a.png

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Herrera is available for as little as £14 million or even less. You'll have to play fast and loose with the wage budget a bit to accommodate him (he asked for 135k from me) but he's the vital cog in my 3-3-1-2-3.

yAHelIk.png?1

Inaki Williams and Sabin Merino are both more than capable of being used in place of Susaeta and Muniain and when he's not injured Benat is great backup for Herrera. Special mention to Mikel Rico who is the definition of a big moment player, equalising after coming on as a sub against Real Madrid, and contributing whenever I've brought him on. Aduriz is averaging a goal a game currently as well.

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Bowie thank you for starting this up. I'll be starting my save soon, plan on running a little Simeone style with a defensive 442.

 

@CaptainSa you're a man after my own heart with that formation. I've been dying to try a Libero with brings ball out of defense PPM. How's it working?

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On 11/14/2017 at 08:13, Olivierlandman said:

First update :

bilbao_update_oktober_17.png

Screen_Hunter_100_Nov_13_23_08.jpg

Screen_Hunter_100_Nov_13_23_06.jpg

My 2-5-3 strikerless is going good ! Used this formation since the getafe fixture. Only conceded one goal in la liga. After my game against Eibar i lost a few important players.. i'm without a left wingback for 4/5 weeks and Lekeu is playing WBL..  He was injured after 30 minutes against Real Madrid and had to bring on Iker (after a bad injury / after eibar) and put Inaki on the WBL....

Pressing as a good high unit is going good, front three are moving and doing the things i want..

can you post the Team instructions?

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12 hours ago, Ghents said:

Bowie thank you for starting this up. I'll be starting my save soon, plan on running a little Simeone style with a defensive 442.

 

@CaptainSa you're a man after my own heart with that formation. I've been dying to try a Libero with brings ball out of defense PPM. How's it working?

Unbeaten in all competitions but I'm only like 4 or 5 games in. Dominated Real Madrid for large portions of a 1-1 draw. Aduriz and Herrera have been the main highlights, but Laporte generally does very well defensively (double figures in tackles and interceptions especially) and contributes a bit to the attacking phase. I'm trying to train 'Get forward at all times' for him to increase the amount of time he'll spend up field, so we'll see how that goes.

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13 hours ago, Pablo Sanchez said:

Random.... 

yes random. No idea how u came up with it no one in the world uses it lol

If u pull the wingbacks back to the fb slots, then it's a normal 4 3 3 narrow.

Only conceded 3 or 4 goals in 14 liga games. I will post the TI tonight.

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11 hours ago, Pablo Sanchez said:

can you post the Team instructions?

Screen_Hunter_105_Nov_16_19_35.jpgScreen_Hunter_106_Nov_16_19_35.jpg

I just played against Barcelona , 2-2 and we dominated the first half (possession) .

Screen_Hunter_106_Nov_16_21_54.jpg

Edited by Olivierlandman

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16 hours ago, Pablo Sanchez said:

cool looks to be working well. Tried it with a few other clubs and it is killing it. 

Killing it , u mean negative ?

I'm only using it with Bilbao, but i think it could work with a lot of teams.

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Small update (winter first season).

Fixtures:

Screen_Hunter_110_Nov_18_14_22.jpg

First transfer (for the future - i hope he can aid the second team - Bilbao in their relegation battle) - from osasuna b (1milj now, a few clauses ):

Screen_Hunter_109_Nov_18_14_21.jpg

table:

Screen_Hunter_110_Nov_18_14_23.jpg

 

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Been following these Athletic Bilbao threads for the last few editions of FM and they're always extremely interesting!

Followed Bilbao myself extensively for quite a while but have never truly played as them for an FM save but have instead just completed the odd season here and there, but I think I'm gonna give it a proper crack this edition and try to get at least a few seasons deep, especially with Aduriz's age meaning there's less opportunity to get the most out of him.

I feel like the 'dynamics' aspect adds a whole new layer of difficulty to the save, especially when rejecting bids for big name players and I'm keen to see how that plays out in the long run.

8qn7U8AGRe_lSd1klRrPgQ.png38gkBSI5RWuqMaqent_ehQ.png

Likely gonna use the 4231, perhaps with an attacking (2 MC's) and defensive (2 DM) set-up to try and leave enough room for counter-attacking through the wide areas of the pitch, but I'm always open to switching things up when needed! Central defenders are superb and the full-backs can provide cover going forwards and defensively. The passing of the team is generally quite poor so I feel our best approach is to give it to Benat who can hopefully release one of the attacking players, retaining possession seems far less likely for us!

viG84n6fToitKmVqrKWWNA.png

Looked through the expiring contracts and noticed there are quite a few of the 'old guard' running down their final year, any suggestions on who is better to retain and who is better to move on?

So far I've offered contracts to Kepa (Essential), Ager Aketze, iago Herrerin and Unai Nunez (Although he rejected it, which is worrying!)

 

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I'm going to keep everyone (i sold Boveda at the start of the first season). Only doubting about Sola.

 

I won away against Real Madrid and with +- 12 games to go i'm still first.. EL quarter final against Porto .

My 2-5-3 (strikerless) seems to work. I'm going to post a full update after the end of the first season.

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My advice. Renew the contract for all the potential big signings. Laporte, Williams, Muniain, De Marco, etc and put from 120 to 80M the release clause. (big wages have to be given but is necessary). Then promise that you can qualify for the CL. I think is a realistic target if everything goes well.

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I'd renew them all aside from Mikel Rico and Kike Sola, potentially Etxeita as well but depends how you feel about him.

Boveda offers a lot of versatility across the backline so i tend to keep him around. Aduriz I would hold off for a bit until you see how his decline goes

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Really proud how i'm getting results against the big teams in la liga.

topmatchen_season_1.png

Last 6 games now and i'm first with one point above Real Madrid. and semi final EL against Lyon or Ajax.

 

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YAZ7i18.jpg

 

Going well so far!

I've given out new contracts like they're going out of fashion. I now have all the key players tied down on super high release clauses for the long term (including Laporte!). Signed Otegui and Javi Martinez (the young Osasuna one) who are being tutored etc for the future...Martinez is playing for the B team and Otegui is getting minutes for the first team thanks to our easy Europa League group. 

Still keeping my eye on Ander Herrera but sadly he signed a new 3 year deal at United, so that one might not work out.

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