Bielsa to leave Athletic Bilbao

Madrid, June 8 (IANS) Athletic Bilbao president Josu Urrutia said that Marcelo Bielsa will not continue as first team coach at the Spanish Primera Liga club next season.

Urrutia gave the news in a press conference called at the club’s offices Friday evening, confirming the news which many had been expecting for several days, reports Xinhua.

“We think it is in the best interests of the club to make the change,” said Urrutia, who added that the decision had been made unanimously at the last meeting of his board of directors.

The decision means a goodbye for the popular Argentinean, who in his first season at the club guided Athletic to the final of the Europa League and the Spanish Copa del Rey, although Athletic lost both games 3-0 to Atletico Madrid and 3-0 to FC Barcelona.

The season which has just finished, was, however, a major disappointment as Athletic failed to make it out of the group stage in the Europa League, knocked out of the Copa del Rey by third tier side, Eibar and were not safe from relegation until three games from the end of the season.

The Basque side suffered the loss of midfielder, Javi Martinez and the fact striker Fernando Llorente and defender Fernando Amorebieta both decided against extending their contracts and played little in the season as the club finished the campaign in a discreet 12th position.

The season was also marked by a very public disagreement between Bielsa and the club over the delays in modifications to the club’s training ground last summer.

Urrutia thanked Bielsa for his time at the club saying his time as coach had been, “very important and positive”.

The Athletic president said the club had still not decided on who would be Bielsa’s successor, although there are two main candidates: Ernesto Valverde, who left Valencia a week ago and could return for a second spell at the club, or B-team coach, Cuco Ziganda, whose side are currently looking to win promotion to the Spanish second division.

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