Heritage and tradition has always played a huge part of Athletic Club, or Athletic Bilbao’s, fabric.
In a football world that is ruled by extortionate transfer fees and money, Athletic’s story is one of refreshing innovation with an almost complete reliance on their youth academy and bringing players through the system.
For Athletic have a policy where only players native to the Basque Country are eligible to play for them. This meaning players are drawn from the autonomous communities of the Basque Country and Navarre in Spain and the Northern Basque Country in France.
The saying that defines their philosophy – “Con cantera y afición, no hace falta importación” – translates as “with home-grown talent and local support, you don’t need foreigners.”
Cynics will always argue that Athletic represent somewhat of a glass ceiling, held back by the same identity that defines the club. But with everyone pushing in the same direction there is no lack of identity or confusion around the sporting model that has been the downfall of so many clubs.
However as one of only three clubs to never have been relegated from La Liga (the others being El Clasico giants Real Madrid and Barcelona), you could argue that tradition and identity and Athletic’s model is working just fine.