Why Italy's biggest newspaper thinks Sheffield United are the Athletic Bilbao of English football

The Blades' success has been very much homegrown
The Blades' success has been very much homegrown
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What do Sheffield United and La Liga's Athletic Bilbao have in common? More than just the red and white shirts according to Italy's leading newspaper.

La Gazzetta Dello Sport - Italy's biggest selling newspaper - yesterday published a feature on how Chris Wilder's Blades are bucking the modern football trend of cosmopolitan squads.

The start of the Premier League era 25 years ago saw the beginning of an influx of foreign players into English football.

Over time that influx has spread from the top flight and permeated through even the lower levels of the 92 club pyramid.

But of all the teams currently in the top two tiers of English football Sheffield United have the fewest players born outside of the UK and Ireland (just the one in Caolon Lavery).

This distinction has led Gazzetta to draw parallels between the Blades and Bilbao.

The Spanish side have a long tradition - dating back to 1912 - of only recruiting players from the Basque region which straddles Spain and France.

Athletic are also the only club other than Barcelona and Real Madrid never to have been relegated from the spanish top flight.

Gazzetta's Luca Feole writes: "In the Championship this season there is a team who wants to emulate the actions of the Spaniards.

"In the summer of 222 million Euros spent on Neymar, Sheffield United represents a homemade model capable of stimulating nostalgic fans.

"After a brilliant start in the Championship, who knows, the men of Chris Wilder maybe able to bring yet another English fairy tale to the magnificent stage of the Premier League."