Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier was honoured by Spanish side Athletic Club Bilbao last night with their inaugural one-club man award.
The midfielder who scored 209 goals in his 16 year playing career at Saints was handed his award at half-time during Bilbao’s La Liga clash with Real Sociedead which finished 1-1.
Le Tissier was a guest of honour at the game, and footage of his goals was relayed on the big screens prior to receiving his prize.
Southampton and Bilbao most recently met in the Markus Liebherr Memorial Cup during 2011 which the Spanish side won, but the two club’s history goes back a little further than that. The two places share a trade link which dates back to the 19th Century when the Spanish city was a leading port of a key industrial era. It was the driving force of the Spanish economy and as thus attracted many workers from overseas, including shipyard workers from Southampton.
The British workers brought the game of football with them, and are credited for introducing the sport to the area and forming Bilbao FC, an early making of Athletic Club as they stand today.
Bilbao are even credited with playing in red and white stripes because a club representative was sent over to England many years ago to get a football kit for the club. The story goes that when he got back to Southampton here he was departing from he remembered he did not have it, so he brought 50 Saints shirts which were shared between themselves and Atletico Madrid.
Matt Le Tissier, con la plantilla del Athletic pic.twitter.com/O9QRJAVUip— Athletic Club (@AthleticClub) April 28, 2015
A statement on Athletic's website read: “For us, what we value most are your [Le Tissier's] values and principles, your loyalty to the same club during your entire career.
“We see ourselves very much reflected in this value and in these principles. For this reason, it is a true honour for us to give you our first One-Club Man Award. This way you will always be part of our history.”
Le Tissier said the feeling was mutual after picking up his award.
“It certainly was a big surprise and a very pleasant one too,” he said. “I am incredibly proud to be the first to receive this award.”
Prior to the game he told Bilbao’s YouTube channel: “I know this is the basque derby and I’m looking forward to it very much, and the manager of the opposition is someone I know very well from England, so it should be a very good game and I’ve now adopted Bilbao as my Spanish team that I support from now on.”
It is the latest note of adoration from Spain for Le Tissier who has also been hailed by another one-club man, the Barcelona midfielder, Xavi, who cited Le Tissier as a player he enjoyed watching from afar, as well as holding an appreciation for his loyalty to Southampton over the years.