Athletic Club’s Presidential Election Shifts Focus To Lezama

Aitor Elizegi

Aitor Elizegi with Juan Carlos Ercoreca

It feels like the Athletic Club Presidential campaigns have been going on for ages. There have been so many twists and turns that it’s been difficult to keep up with it all. First Aitor Elizegi appeared to be the popular candidate as he is the face of change, but after making some questionable statements about the Athletic philosophy more Socios started to give their support to the established and familiar Alberto Uribe-Echevarría.

The campaign then took a turn with all of the focus on the club’s philosophy. Interviews, public addresses, and questions asked to both candidates were about Athletic’s indemnity and whether or not changes should be made. More and more support was shown to Uribe-Echevarría, but over the past few days Elizegi has played the best card in his hand.

On Christmas Eve Elizegi announced that former defender Rafael Alkorta will serve as Sporting Director if he wins the Presidency. It was also revealed that Andoni Ayarza will be the Technical Secretary and Manolo Delgado will act an external advisor to the Board of Directors. It was the first time that either candidate has named who will take over for current Sporting Director José María Amorrortu, who is retiring in June, and Uribe-Echevarría has continually refused to discuss specific names.

Despite the secrecy, Uribe-Echevarría has announced that he intends to have a Sporting Director that will work with the first team and a separate Director of Lezama. Several possible candidates have been mentioned, but many reports now suggest that the Uribe-Echevarría has already made a decision. According to sources Eibar Sporting Director Fran Garagarza is the leading candidate for the position at Athletic. His contract with Eibar ends in June, the same time that Amorrortu will be retiring, which would explain why Uribe-Echevarría has refused to reveal more if he is indeed the choice. Meanwhile former Eibar Director of Football Mikel González, who now holds the role at Alavés, is the favorite to become the Director of Lezama.

On Wednesday Elizegi took it to the next level. He announced that former Athletic Vice President Juan Carlos Ercoreca will serve as the President of the club’s Foundation. Ercoreca has served in several prestigious roles in Bilbao, currently President of bilbaoDenak which oversees the commercial and tourist aspects of the city, and Elizegi has put a heavy emphasis on the social aspect of his campaign. Former player and Lezama coach Gontzal Suances will also act as Sports Advisor to Ercoreca.

Elizegi has been very outspoken about his belief that Lezama is not living up to the goals and potential of the academy. He wants to make Lezama the best youth academy in European football, while Uribe-Echevarría has regularly defended the recent success of the youth system and has also admitted that he wants to improve areas. At first this election centered around economics, then the club’s philosophy, and now Lezama has become the area of focus. Voting polls will open in less than 24 hours and Socios will be the ones to decide the future of Athletic Club de Bilbao.

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