How does Athletic Bilbao’s academy manage to produce 85% of their team?

Athletic Bilbao are almost entirely reliant on their academy for players yet they have never been relegated from La LigaBy Alex Clapham for Caño Football of the Sport NetworkThe sleepy town of Lezama sits 10km outside of Bilbao and is home to just 2,400 people, but it also accommodates one of the most unusual football clubs in the world: Athletic Bilbao. Just 14 years after being founded, Athletic were accused of fielding ineligible foreign players in the 1911 Copa del Rey, so decided they would only ever pick players who were born in the Basque Country or “formed locally”. More than a century later, that policy remains in place and they are still one of three clubs who have never been relegated from the top tier of Spanish football, alongside Barcelona and Real Madrid.The club’s reliance on local talent starts at their training ground in Lezama, which was opened in 1971 and now hosts the first team, the women’s teams and their various academy sides. There are eight pitches, a gymnasium, a press room and medical room in Lezama, but it is the iconic arch – which was relocated here from the old San Mamés stadium – that gives the place the feeling of a great institution. Continue reading…

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