29 lions with the ‘made in Valverde’ label


Last August 30 marked two decades since Ernesto Valverde debuted as Athletic coach. The lions lost on Saturday 0-1 against Barça at the old Cathedral. That day, the man from Gasteiz began a career as a First Division coach that led him to become the coach of the first red-and-white team with the most appearances on the Bilbao bench in the entire centennial history of the red-and – white club.

His background throughout this career divided into three different phases includes a total of 355 matches played with a balance of 161 wins, 115 draws and 79 draws in eight campaigns, including the current one. Beyond his own personal and professional journey, Valverde’s time as Athletic coach has ended, for now, with the debut of 29 footballers trained at Lezama. From Iraola’s debut in the aforementioned clash against the Barça squad of the old San Mamés to Beñat Prados’ latest, a large group of puppies have had the opportunity to defend the red and white first team shirt.

A few hours before the clash against Mallorca, the Athletic coach was emphatic in his argument about the possibilities of the red and white club to go to the market: “Sometimes, when you ask me about the market, I feel that the options are not common and many. everywhere. That there are few moves? But in Athletic there are few moves and when there are many because the normal is nothing. We don’t have many opportunities. Our market is focused on two or three players or one and a half players. These things are what we think they are.”

The ‘reinforcements’ of the house

Across his eight seasons as Athletic’s head coach, just beginning the eighth, the average number of cubs making their debut as the lions with Valverde on the bench has been more than three per season. Its debut in the First Division, 2003–04 campaign, resulted in the departure of Iraola, Jonan García and Bordas. The following year, the last of his first period as red-and-white coach, the number of debuts doubled. Six in total with Casas, Azkorra, Solabarrieta, Pampín, Moya and Fernando Llorente as protagonists.

We had to wait until the 2013-2014 season for Valverde to coach Athletic again. That campaign saw the debut of Herrerín, Saborit, Albizua and Guillermo. Next it was the turn of Unai López, Aketxe, Bustinza and Iñaki Williams. In 2015-16, when Bilbao Athletic was promoted to the Second Division, it was the turn of Sabin Merino, Lekue and Eraso. The Gasteiztarran coach closed the second period by giving an alternative as lions to Yeray, Vesga, Kepa and Villalibre.

Another three for now

After that 2016-17 season, Valverde’s third cycle as a rojiblanco coach coincided with the departure of Marcelino and the change of Athletic presidency between Aitor Elizegi and Jon Uriarte. The 2022-23 campaign ended with the debuts of Adu Ares and Paredes. Only two debutants from Lezama, the lowest number with the gasteiztarran coach on the bench. A figure that has already been surpassed in this League by giving way to Unai Gómez, Imanol and Beñat Prados.

Source: La Verdad


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