Basque Boys – Part 24: Basque where I belong | @NTR9798

Hola! and welcome back to Spain! I hope you all enjoyed CLM, but now I’m back with the Basque Boys, and from now on, instead of jumping between blogs at the end of each season, I’m going to play each one to a finish, starting with this one…

As it’s been a while, I’ll quickly recap the rules… Manage Athletic Bilbao, and adhere to their real-life policy of only signing Basque players, or academy graduates from Basque clubs (Real Sociedad, Eibar, Osasuna, and Alaves), and their regens.

We’re about to start season four. We’ve not yet won La Liga, due to the dominance of Barca, but we do have a Copa Del Rey, Supercopa Española, and Cup Winners’ Cup in the cabinet – Not bad for a team with severely limited transfer options.

Our reward for winning the Cup Winners’ Cup is a Super Cup final against Man Utd, the only positive being that it’s not season one Man Utd.

We’ll start with transfers, and first through the door are Julen Lopetegui’s regen for free, and Aitor Lopez Rekarte for £450k from Sociedad.

We raise some funds from the sales of Campo, Urzaiz, and Garitano…

Pre-season tour time, and I’ve kept it local this year to see if less travelling helps, so we’re playing three fellow Basque sides, and start by brushing aside Barakaldo.

If Real Union’s four substitutions in the first ten minutes was an attempt at mind games, it clearly went over our heads…

Lemona stick a couple past Leighton, but we’re not f*cking about, and it’s three wins from three…

Having already signed Garitano, Gijon raid us again for Alkiza…

And we pay Valencia £4.9m for Javi De Pedro, who I tried to sign from Sociedad, but they wouldn’t sell to us. I sense a “Welcome to Bilbao” billboard coming…

The squad is looking ok, I still want to bring in one or two more, and offload a few, but I’m fairly happy. The mood in the camp is good, but Lizarazu wants to leave after not playing in the friendlies, poor little prima donna.

I’ve experimented with numerous formations in this blog, but I’ve settled on this to start the season with, courtesy of the legendary Nikolai.

We begin at home to Zaragoza. Lizarazu has a mare at DML, so Mendieta is on, and that switch changes the game, with sub Loinaz scoring twice. Wooter turnaround that was!

We bombard Espanyol, who of course score with their only shot on target all game, but thankfully Guerrero spares our blushes.

Our Cup Winners’ Cup defence begins in Cyprus…

Another signing… It may seem mediocre, but if he’s half as immense as he was for my Real Madrid side in CLM, then it’s £2m well-spent.

Karanka goes straight into the team, and helps us keep our first clean sheet of the season against fellow Basques Osasuna, and there’s a debut goal for De Pedro, happy days.

Two more arrivals… Derby and Southampton fans will know Idiakez, another who Sociedad refused to sell me, but Sampdoria are kinder…

And Igor Arenaza has been a goal machine for Eibar and Hercules in the Segunda so far, so hopefully he can cut it in the top flight…

Bastida (Patxi Salinas) leaves to balance the books, and three other regens are loaned out…

A busy couple of weeks in the transfer market takes the spending to over £14m, leaving about £700k in the bank, so the cheque book is now closed.

Idiakez and Arenaza both make their debuts against Real Madrid, and we win comfortably, despite the customary heroic performance from Contreras in their goal.

The three newest signings sit out the Larnaca game as they arrived after the deadline, but it’s still an emphatic win.

In other news…

Sevilla catch us by surprise and go 2-0 up, but Rios pulls one back, and Etxebe pounces on a late suicidal back pass to snatch a point and maintain our unbeaten start.

I accept a bid for Huegun from Sociedad, just so I can pull the plug at the last minute. I call that karma…

Arenaza’s arrival has certainly kept Laslandes and Etxebe on their toes, and they combine to put Del Solar-powered Celta to the sword.

A much-changed side finish off Larnaca. The score line flatters us as they weren’t without their chances, but Loinaz has still got it at 33.

Next stop, Hungary! (well, after the first leg).

Our Copa Del Rey fate is also revealed, and it’s Compostela, who play their home games in a little green bin at the bottom of a garden.

Next up are Sporting Gijon, or as I like to call them, The Donkeys. Their keeper is a pain the ass, so I’m happy when he’s sent off, and a 4-2 win keeps the home support silent.

Mendieta wins his first Spain cap, just before we face his former club. Arenaza gets his first goal, but It’s a frustrating draw, especially against ten men for most of the second half.

The first leg with MTK goes swimmingly, and so it should, considering they only have one real player in a sea of greys.

We finish at Deportivo. I had a bad feeling about this match, and can accept our first loss, but what takes the absolute piss is Mustapha f*cking Hadji scoring a hat trick.

So it’s a reasonable start. The top three is predictable, but we’re only two points behind. The new formation is promising, but catching Barcelona will still be as arduous as ever…

And just like that, there ends our first week back in Bilbao! Join us next week as we begin our cup and European campaigns. Tough league games with Barca, Atletico and Betis await, as does our first shot at silverware in the European Super Cup final. Adios, Amigos!

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