Atlético Nacional return to their roots and have an all-Colombian squad

When there was a rule in place which prohibited the club from signing foreign players, Atlético Nacional won the Libertadores in 1989 and reached the final in 1995. Other clubs who adopt strict transfer rules are Chivas, Athletic Bilbao and Nacional de Ecuador.

Between 1958 and 1961 Atlético Nacional first imposed a restriction on themselves when it came to adding foreign players to the squad. They didn't win any titles but it was the start of something unique when it came to giving Colombian youngsters a chance. They returned to this philosophy in 1987 when Francisco Maturana took over as the first team coach. The board wanted a change in fortune and once again the focus was on nurturing their own, local talent ahead of bringing in players from elsewhere. This idea led to the most successful period in Colombian football and saw many special footballers come through during this time: José René Higuita, Andrés Escobar, Luis Perea, Leonel Álvarez, Didi Valderrama, Alveiro Uzuriaga and John Jairo Tréllez to name but a few.

The fruits of that labour came in 1989 when they won the CONMEBOL Libertadores.

It remained in place until the Apertura 2004. Before then, in 1995, they reached another Libertadores final. The following year also saw Colombian football rise to the top of the continent when América de Cali made the final too. In that Cali side were plenty of experienced players such as Oscar Córdoba - who played for Atlético Nacional in 1989 -, Jorge Bermúdez, Antony de Ávilao and Franky Oviedo amongst others. Afterwards a poor run of results saw the rules relaxed for the Medellín club and foreign players were once again brought in.

That was until now. Following the departure of goalkeeper Fernando Monetti to San Lorenzo, Atlético Nacional's squad is once again all-Colombian. After a spell in Bulgarian football with Ludogoretz Razgrad, Paulo Autuori - who won the CONMEBOL Libertadores in 1997 with Cruzeiro and in 2005 with São Paulo - is in charge of this unique squad which will start in Phase 2 of the competition, waiting for the winner of the Phase 1 clash between Deportivo La Guaira and Real Garcilaso.

Possessing a squad of players from one region or country isn't unique only to Atlético Nacional. The most famous club in this regard is Athletic Bilbao. They are only able to use players who have come through their own academy or who have come through academies in the following local regions inside of Bilbao: Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, Araba, Nafarroa, Lapurdi, Zuberoa and Nafarroa Behera. This of course includes players who were born in any of those regions. Athletic have seen a steady flow of superstars come through their ranks such as Telmo Zarra, Rafael Moreno Aranzadi “Pichichi”, José Ángel Iribar, Fernando Amorebieta and Fernando Llorente amongst others.

This is also the case with Chivas de Guadalajara. Created in 1906, and with 12 league titles under their belt, they decided to not use foreign players a long time ago. Some of the special talents to emerge from Chivas are Eduardo De la Torre, Carlos Salcido, Francisco Javier Maza Rodríguez, Carlos Vela and Javier "Chicharito" Hernández.

Nacional de Ecuador is another side which doesn't sign foreign players. Created in 1960, they've always maintained the same rules but it was brought into the spotlight back in 2017. The Colombian Rinson López falsified his paperwork in order to join the team and it created a huge scandal. The biggest success story from Nacional de Ecuador is Manchester United's Antonio Valencia.

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