Madrid, July 3 (IANS) Athletic Club Bilbao became the first Spanish club to return to pre-season training when they started their preparations for the 2017-2018 campaign on Monday.
The Basque side went back to work barely a week after the 2016-17 season ended in Spain with Getafe claiming the third promotion spot to the Liga Santander for the coming campaign, reports Xinhua news agency.
Athletic, who would also officially present their new kit for the new season on Monday, finished seventh in the league last season, meaning they will have to play two qualifying rounds for the Europa League and they will play those games under the guidance of a new coach, Jose Angel Ziganda who has replaced Ernesto Valverde.
Valverde ended his four years at the club at the end of last season to sign as the new coach of FC Barcelona, although Ziganda, who used to partner Valverde in the Athletic attack in the 1990’s, is considered a safe pair of hands after six seasons coaching the club’s B-team.
His experience in working with young players will be important as so far Athletic have not made any summer signings, although they are hopeful of adding Borussia Dortmund midfielder Mikel Merino to their ranks before the end of the summer.
However, just as last summer the majority of the new faces will be from the B-team with winger Jon Cordoba, defender Unai Nunz and goalkeeper Unai Simon all scheduled to begin training with the first team.
The rest of the side consists of experienced veterans such as 36-year-old Ariz Aduriz and Raul Garcia and young players such as Spain Under-21 duo Inaki Williams and Kepa Arrizabalaga, who is expected to sign a new contract in the coming days.