Julen Guerrero López, the man who remained loyal to Bilbao

Athletic Bilbao

Julen Guerrero López (born 7 January 1974) is a Spanish retired footballer who played ONLY for Athletic Bilbao amassing amazing 400 official games.

Ambidextrous, the attacking midfielder was mainly known for his skills and shooting ability. A Spanish international since 1993, he represented the nation at two World Cups, gaining 41 caps. On 27 January 1993, when still only 19, Guerrero made his debut for Spain in a friendly game with Mexico, in Las Palmas. He went on to play 41 games and score 13 goals, including one at the 1994 FIFA World Cup, and also represented the nation at the 1998 World Cup and UEFA Euro 1996.

The Portugalete born player joined Athletic Bilbao since 8 years old and progressed through the junior rank of the club. He did get his debut in the reserves in the second division in 1991-92 season and also won national cup and league double with Athletic Bilbao U19 with Aitor Karanka, current Middlesbrough manager.

With the immense quality he had, it did not take a very long time to make his senior debut on Sept 1992 with him aging just 18 under Jupp Heynckes. He was a great impact player and scored 28 goals in his first two seasons and further 37 goals in next 4 years. He was also awarded the Spanish player of the year by El pais in 1993 and also Spanish Footballer of the Year by both Don Balon and El pais in 1994.

The early promise Guerrero showed attracted interest from Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, Juventus FC, S.S. Lazio and Manchester United. However, he still remained loyal to Athletic Bilbao and signed 10 year contract in 1997 and which was the longest in the club’s history and also made him the team’s highest-paid player.

In 1997–98, Guerrero netted eight times in 29 contests as the Basques finished second, leading to direct qualification for the UEFA Champions League. However, in the following years, his career went into decline and, in 2002, he was dropped by coach Luis Fernández, while still being only 28.

In his last four seasons combined he could only manage 57 games with just four goals but, despite his poor form, remained a fan favourite, and the decision to drop him caused some controversy.

On 11 July 2006, Guerrero announced his retirement as a player at an emotional press conference to remove all the attention of him from the team.

He scored 116 goals in 430 competitive matches over the course of 14 seasons, including four in 17 appearances in various European competitions. Immediately after retiring, Guerrero took charge of the Lezama youth ranks, leaving the post after two years.

Right now, he owns a restaurant in Zamudio and writes columns for Eurosport.