Basque Boys for Life – Part 1 | @NickRowe85

Please welcome Nick Rowe to the blog! For those you on Twitter, you’ll know Nick from his excellent CM9798 icon cards as well as a few saves he has serialised in tweet form. Now, he takes the step of sharing with you his latest save in a much longer form. Over to Nick…

Hello everyone, and welcome to my first blog. I’ve been wanting to write one for ages, but have been trying to think of an interesting enough challenge, and I think I finally have. The CM9798 icons cards that I’ve been tweeting have been well-received, so hopefully you will all enjoy this blog as well.

Anyway, small talk over, and the team I’ve chosen to manage is Athletic Bilbao. Why? I hear you ask, they’re already a reasonable side so surely it shouldn’t take much to make them better? Well normally that would be a fair assumption, but now for the twist…

For those of you who were unaware, since 1912 Bilbao have had a club transfer policy, whereby they can only sign either Basque-born players, or players who learned their football skills at a Basque club. So the challenge is to manage them while adhering to this policy, meaning that I can sign any players born in Basque Country, or graduates from the academies of Alaves, Real Sociedad, Eibar and Osasuna. I’m also going to allow myself to sign regens of any of those players. Not having to worry about the foreigner restriction or work permits will be a nice change.

So after some research, I’ve compiled a list of around 70 players that I can sign, and I’ve kept strictly within the criteria, there are no players in there who have a grandmother who’s next door neighbour went on holiday to Basque Country or anything like that. The majority of the players are Spanish, but unfortunately we’re not talking Alfonso, Raul and Luis Enrique, more like Iñigo Idiakez, Ivan Campo and Aitor Karanka. There are a few Frenchmen too, like Didier Deschamps, Bixente Lizarazu and future Derby county legend, François Grenet (no, me neither).

This is the squad I’ve inherited from my predecessor, Luis Fernandez, and I reckon it’s not too shabby. Bilbao finished 6th last season, so we have the UEFA Cup to play for as well as the league and Copa del Rey.

It’s clear some of the players aren’t going to make the cut, and there’s some overcrowding in some positions, so I’ve transfer-listed 8 players. I have a B Team, so I can demote some players if I need to make room in the squad.

Spanish internationals Rafael Alkorta, Roberto Rios, Julen Guerrero, Ismael Urzaiz and Joseba Etxeberria should provide a solid spine to build the rest of the team around.

Rafael Alkorta is a Spanish international centre-back, and it’s not hard to see why. Solid in a tackle, strong, well-positioned and a good header of the ball, pretty much all you could ask for in a centre-back. The only thing that may work against him is his aggression.

Roberto Rios will play in the Makelele (or as I prefer to call it, Heidenstrom) role. I’ve seen him sign for Real Madrid and Barcelona loads of times in the past, so it’s only a matter of time before an offer comes in.

Julen Guerrero is my prize asset and will pull the strings behind the strikers. I’m sure he’ll create and score many goals with those creativity and shooting stats. He’s another one that I expect Real and Barca to come sniffing around for.

Ismael Urzaiz is not an out-and-out striker, but hopefully he’ll score his share of goals, which look more likely to come from his head than his feet, but as long as he scores, I don’t care.

I rememeber watching Joseba Etxeberria for Spain at Euro 2004, and saw that he had ‘Etxebe’ on the back of his shirt. I presumed that the shirt printers had run out of letters, but apparently it’s his nickname (highly original, eh?). As long as he performs, he can have whatever he wants on his shirt.

Now for what I need. The board have kindly given me a transfer budget of £19 million, which should last a while in such a limited market. I’m happy with my goalkeeper, midfield and forward options, but definitely need 2 right-backs, a centre-back, and a left-back, so let’s see who we can get.

This pair are the pick of the fullbacks available at this time, so in they both come for a combined £2.9 million. Billabona is actually named ‘Villabona’ in real-life (another database typo).

Continuing the good news… Tabuenka, Etxebe and Ziganda all sign new contracts.

There have been some departures too. Carlos Garcia to Salamanca and Jose Mari to Valencia. In other news, the obligatory sacking of Wales boss, Bobby Gould happens (the poor bloke must dread it every time someone starts a new save) and Barcelona win the super cup against Real Madrid.

It’ll come as little surprise that Barcelona and Real Madrid are the teams to beat in Spain, their squads are unreal and it will be a difficult task trying to compete with them. However, the last team to win the title other than either of them was… Bilbao, back in 1983/84, which could be a good omen.

This is not what I wanted to see just before the season starts. What on earth was he doing in training to suffer a fractured skull?

I took the team on a pre-season tour of China. It was nice being mobbed by fans and signing a few shirts, and things didn’t go badly on the pitch, with 3 wins.

A few clubs make offers for 2 of my top targets, but when I try, I’m dealt this crushing blow. Damn you Sociedad, damn you!

So, it’s been a bit of a frustrating pre-season, both in terms of injuries and transfers, so hopefully things can only get better.

This part of the blog has turned out to be more of a preview, so I apologise for the lack of match action, but I got a bit carried away and had written almost 2000 words, and had to split it across 2 posts because I didn’t want to bore people, so the matches will start in part 2, which is coming next week, so I’ll see you all then.

Thanks for reading!

You can follow Nick on Twitter @nickrowe85

2 thoughts on “Basque Boys for Life – Part 1 | @NickRowe85

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