Athletic Club, or Athletic Bilbao, are notoriously one of the most difficult teams to play with on Football Manager. This is because of their policy of only signing players from the Basque region, focusing predominately on bringing players through the youth academy.
You’ll want to try and push to get the club back into European football, with Athletic Club having some pretty recent European pedigree, reaching the Europa League final in 2012. Although La Liga is competitive, the introduction of the Europa Conference League in 2021, Euro Cup II on FM, should give you an opportunity to push for honours. Athletic Club have a strong enough starting XI, but you will want to try to add more depth to the squad.
Athletic Club’s main rivals are Real Sociedad and unfortunately, the best Basque qualified players either currently play for or are ex-Sociedad players. Although none would be immediate signings realistically, some of the best Basque-qualified players on the game have ties to Sociedad. Mikel Oyarzabal, Asier Illarramendi, Nacho Monreal and Mikel Merino are all current players and if it wasn’t enough that he currently plays for Barcelona and is way out of your transfer budget, Antoine Griezmann’s status as a former player almost certainly rules him out too.
Inigo Martinez, who is one of your better players, has proven it is not unheard for players to move between the clubs but there are options in the transfer market that aren’t just nicking Sociedad’s best players.
Athletic Club already have two fairly strong goalkeepers in Unai Simon and Iago Herrerin but if Edouard Mendy continues to perform and Chelsea sign another back up keeper, a move to bring Kepa Arrizabalaga back to the club, even if only on loan, may not be too unrealistic after a couple of seasons.
If you were looking for a more experienced keeper to add to your ranks, St Etienne’s Stephane Ruffier is another Basque-qualified option.
Again, if you were playing a back four, you’d have pretty solid options for your starting XI at least. After a couple of seasons you could turn to Chelsea for another player; bringing in Cesar Azpilicueta would add a wealth of experience and, although he’d be pushing mid-thirties, some undoubtable quality to your defence as well.
Alvaro Odriozola of Real Madrid is a good option at right back if he’s available for loan a couple of seasons in but like Sociedad, Real are another of Athletic Club’s main rivals.
Bringing Aymeric Laporte back to the club would be a great if unrealistic option.
Midfield is perhaps the area where Athletic club lack the most depth. One of the key players in the club’s journey to the Europe League final in 2012 was Ander Herrera and if he wouldn’t be a bad option a couple of seasons into your save.
Benat, another former player, is a very solid option to give your midfield more depth, especially as he’s a free agent at the start of the game.
Roberto Torres of Pamplona is experienced and affordable option that would give you more options at 10 as well as out wide.
Athletic Club are traditionally a selling club but if you’re able to keep hold Inaki Williams, Iker Munian and Ibai Gomez then you should have the necessary firepower to compete in La Liga. Following the retirement of legendary striker Aritz Aduriz last season, if you wanted to look for another target man to lead the line you could again look for a reunion with a class of 2012 player in the shape of Fernando Llorente. If you’re able to prise him away from Napoli, he should have the quality to help you compete in the league, if not the legs to play every game.