FRIDAY, 24 MAY 2013
After the hangover as a result of the Centenary celebrations, the club was runner-up in the 1997-98 league season, and then participated in the Champions League the following season, and then Fernandez's reign came to an end in 2000. Later two well-known people, Txetxu Rojo, and Jupp Heynckes were to sit on the bench, and in the 2004-05 season the team made it back to Europe, via the UEFA, under the guidance of an ex-player Ernesto Valverde.
After Valverde had left, the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons were the darkest in Athletic history, breaking almost all the negative records of the club. Tremendously difficult times not only on a sporting level (the most negative of all the times in the standings as far as the league is concerned) but institutionally speaking with resignation of President Fernando Lamikiz as well.
This black two-year period is now behind the club and, at the moment, the team is coached by Joaquin Caparrós, a young team, with top footballers, where the generational changing of the guard is taking place without any major traumas, and where people from the youth teams (cantera) in Lezama are being got behind.
It is also during this time, after years of negotiations with local political institutions, that a vital project for the viability of the club has been crystallized: the construction of the new San Mamés Football Field, which will commence in 2009.
That Club, which was founded more than a century ago in the image of the English clubs, is now an organization with more than 33,000 members. A Club which is famous for upholding a peculiar trait which was published in an article in its day by the French sports newspaper L'Equipe, when defining the club as a "unique case in the history of football world-wide". This peculiarity is none other than maintaining the tradition of having Basque players, or players from the Basque Youth teams, a policy which has enabled the Club, throughout its entire history, to be at the top.
Joaquin Caparrós' first season at the front of the team is a calm season, in which we must highlight the convincing victories in Mestalla or Vicente Calderón. Ends up in eleventh position in Liga, with 50 points, and reaches the quarterfinals in Copa, where Racing brings down the rojiblanco team.
The 2008-2009 season will always be remembered for the Copa Final that Athletic Club disputes in Valencia against FC Barcelona. After 24 years, Athletic once again reaches a final and Bilbao and Biscay in general bend over backwards for the team. The end result is not in our favour, but the memories are unforgettable for the whole rojiblanca family.
In Liga, the team did not maintain enough regularity to feel relaxed and there were some complicated moments. But after defeating Betis in San Mamés, four days before disputing the final, salvation was unequivocal.
Josu Urrutia is elected president of Athletic Club and with him comes along Marcelo Bielsa as Manager. The season is memorable since the team reaches a European final for the second time in its history, leaving behind unforgettable qualifying rounds against United, Schalcke or Sporting de Portugal. In the final, Athletic is defeated by Atlético Madrid in Bucharest.
Athletic also reaches the Copa final. And once again the rival is FC Barcelona as occurred three years earlier in Valencia. It did not happen but at least the team was able to classify to dispute the Europa League qualifying rounds.
In the Liga, in the end the team suffered the consequences of the effort it had to make of disputing three competitions and finished the season in tenth place on the table.
Once the season ended, Igor Gabilondo, Koikili Lertxundi and Aitor Ocio were no longer part of the club.