Athletic-Villarreal field all-Spanish XIs in San Mamés

It is an unusual occurrence in modern football but Gaizka Garitano and Javi Calleja both played all-Spanish starting XIs in San Mamés on Sunday.

Athletic-Villarreal field all-Spanish XIs in San Mamés

In today’s globalised football world, the prospect of two sides in a top-flight league game naming starting XIs consisting entirely of players from the country the game is being played in might seem a remote one, but Athletic Bilbao and Villarreal bucked the trend on Sunday when 22 players of Spanish nationality took to the pitch in San Mamés.

Although Athletic’s long and proud tradition of selecting only players from the Basque region to play for The Lions means they regularly send out an all “national” team, it is increasingly rare for any other Liga side to do likewise. But Villarreal boss Javi Calleja named an all-Spanish starting XI as he watched his side go down 1-0 to a controversial penalty decision in Bilbao.

Villa the last Premier League all-English XI

By contrast, it is 20 years since a Premier League side named an all-English XI, let alone one that faced another team of players born in the same country. The club in question was Aston Villa, whose manager John Gregory selected Michael Oakes, Steve Watson, Gareth Southgate, Riccardo Scimeca, Alan Wright, Paul Merson, Ian Taylor, Simon Grayson, Lee Hendrie, Dion Dublin and Julian Joachim against Coventry at Villa Park.

Only six years later, Arsenal would name the first all-foreign squad to compete in the Premier League against Crystal Palace: Jens Lehmann (Germany), Lauren (Cameroon), Kolo Toure (Ivory Coast), Pascal Cygan (France), Gael Clichy (France), Robert Pires (France), Patrick Vieira (France), Edu (Brazil), Jose-Antonio Reyes (Spain), Dennis Bergkamp (Netherlands), Thierry Henry (France). Subs: Manuel Almunia (Spain), Philippe Senderos (Switzerland), Cesc Fabregas (Spain), Mathieu Flamini (France), Robin Van Persie (Netherlands)

Granada hold LaLiga record for all-foreign XI under Tony Adams

In LaLiga, Granada hold a record for naming an XI entirely composed of non-Spanish players in 2016-17 – all of whom were from different countries. The team was: Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico), Rúben Vezo (Portugal), Sverrir Ingason (Iceland), Matthieu Saunier (France), Gastón Silva (Uruguay), Agbo Uche (Nigeria), Rene Krhin (Slovenia), Wakaso Mubarak (Ghana), Artem Kravets (Ukraine), Ezequiel Ponce (Argentina) and Andreas Pereira (Brazil). It was former Arsenal defender Tony Adams’ first game in charge of the Andalusian side.

Last season in Serie A, Napoli, Inter Milan, Udinese and Atalanta all played at least one league game with at least 11 foreign nationals making an appearance.

LaLiga all-Spanish XIs on Sunday 1 March, 2020 at San Mamés

Athletic Bilbao

Unai Simón; Capa, Yeray, Iñigo Martínez, Yuri; Dani García, Vesga; Ibai, Muniain, Córdoba; Raúl García.


Asenjo; Rubén Peña, Albiol, Pau Torres, Alberto Moreno; Iborra, Trigueros, Cazorla; Ontiveros, Gerard Moreno, Paco Alcácer.