The opening day of the La Liga season kicked off the new season with a match between two of the league’s founding clubs, Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao. Along with Real Madrid, these are the only three clubs to have never been relegated from Spain’s top flight. Everyone knows about Barca and Real, who have been giants of European football for decades, but while Bilbao hasn’t seen as much success recently, for them it is perhaps even more impressive.

The club famously only uses players from the Basque region of Spain where Bilbao is located. The policy is that they only sign a player that are native to or trained in the greater Basque country. It means the team is truly home-grown, showcasing the best talent from its own land. To do that and stay at the top level for over 100 years is a crazy achievement for the club, and they have started another season in the right way.

The recent news of their young star player Inaki Williams signing a new nine-year contract that will increase his release clause to 135 million euros is a great example of the way they work with players. His parents are Liberian but he was born in Bilbao and is accepted as a Basque player. It’s great to see that there are places that show you that football is moving forward. 

Bilbao were facing a Barcelona side that have only been beaten in the league four times in two seasons. They were missing Messi, and Suarez limped off in the first half with an injury, but Barca have enough firepower that Bilbao still had to deal with the likes of Dembele and new signing Griezmann. Both players struggled to put their stamp on a tight game, and after 88 minutes the scoreboard read 0-0.

Aritz Aduriz, now 38 and retiring at the end of the season, was brought on for the final couple of minutes. The substitution was likely a move to run down the clock in hope that Bilbao would see out the game and take a point from Barca. But one minute after coming on, Aduriz lept up at the edge of the box to acrobatically volley the ball into the net. The stadium erupted. the bicycle kick was Aduriz’s first touch of the ball.

Bilbao won their opening game and Aduriz became their oldest ever scorer, and the only other player alongside Messi to score in 15 consecutive La Liga campaigns. The players gave him a standing ovation in the dressing room after the game. His career started in 1999 and that goal was the 285th of his career.

“Everything in life has a start and a finish. I’m grateful to be able to choose to end things where I’m happiest,” said Aduriz.

For Barca, it shows that work needs to be done and the lack of goals suggests the attempt to sign Neymar might be justified. We all know how bad Barca wants Neymar and how badly Neymar wants to go back to Barca. There has to be a new star after Messi and I am almost sure Neymar is counting on being that star.

The only thing is that there are a lot of big players at the team. When teams have that most of the time they perform as individuals instead of as a team. Now that Messi and Suarez are injured the push for Neymar is even more important. On paper it looks easy but there is work to be done on this team. If they manage to make the players work as a team every weekend I’ll be there with a big bag of popcorn watching these great talents entertain us. #mmlove