A sideways look at Spanish football
So there is something leakier in Bilbao than Athletic’s back four: the team’s dressing room.
If matters weren’t bad enough for a club already suffering a pizza-ordering, Friends-box-set-sized hangover from last season, a heap of trouble has recently hit the bothered Basques. Athletic are 16th with just two league wins and have an exiled Fernando Llorente scowling from the bench.
A couple of weeks ago, a partial recording of Marcelo Bielsa speaking after the Copa del Rey defeat to Barcelona, was leaked to the press. In it, the team’s crackpot coach took the blame for some of the double cup-final defeat.
But only partial. “To lose two finals like we lost them!” tutted Bielsa, recalling the Atletico Madrid Europa League disaster, probably while mumbling and starting at the floor. Or perhaps even squatting, as is Bielsa’s wont. "You allow yourselves to laugh after seeing there are fans coming back walking from Madrid, and we're on top of a bus laughing after losing a final.”
The whole of the nine-minute mauling delivered to the defeated footballers was then released into the wild, so the big questions bouncing about the Basque Country are who the leaker is and why.
Old-timer Carlos Gurpegui has stepped up to say that the release of the secretly-made recording is very bad news indeed. “There are rules in our dressing room. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen again,” warned the veteran midfielder, assuming that the dirty deed had been done by a player - a particularly disgruntled one looking to make Bielsa look like a very grumpy manager indeed. And a bit of a meanie-head.
Other theories doing the rounds are that it was the bosses of the club itself who were the guilty party, in an attempt to force Bielsa to resign. This was denied outright by Athletic president Jose Urrutia, who played 401 times for the team and is therefore a novelty among Primera big-wigs in that he actually knows something about football.
“It’s disappointing and very sad that someone records something that should stay with the coach and the 25 players,” claimed Urrutia, who must be looking back to the heady days of last season with some affection.
“Someone wanted this to be released but I’m not going into it any further as it’s not good for the club,” fumed Bielsa, who said that he had not heard the recording and no intention of hearing it.
Marca for one were very upset about the whole affair and claim that the leak “violates the fundamental principles and old codes of honour” - although the paper, like every other media provider, was happy to report the details of Bielsa’s rant.
The episode is just another tale from a season that is turning very sour indeed for Athletic. From Bielsa’s falling out with his president over modifications to the training ground to the particularly acrimonious departure of Javi Martinez, nothing seems to be going right at the moment for the battered Basque club.
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