Athletic Club Linked With 7 Summer Transfer Targets
Athletic Club could look vastly different next season because changes are coming. Kuko Ziganda’s first year in charge has not gone according to plan and he will be replaced this summer, but there will be other moves as well. The Basque giants have already signed Ander Capa and Cristian Ganea who will join when the current campaign closes, and all signs point to Dani Garcia also signing on a free transfer. Still, it looks like more transfers could be works.
With only a few months remaining until the summer transfer window opens, Athletic Club has been linked with seven targets. As you will see in the list, there is a heavy focus on strengthening the midfield, but overall improvement is the ultimate goals. Let’s now take a look at those seven players.
Mikel Merino – Midfielder, Newcastle (21)
Mikel Merino is the Great White Whale for Athletic Club. After failing to sign the midfielder for two consecutive seasons, the Basques will once again be all in on bringing the midfielder to the San Mamés this summer. Merino actually agreed to personal terms in the winter market, but Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez axed the deal because he was not able to replace the player. This summer, with more time to facilitate a transfer, the Basque giants should be able to put together a solid offer in hopes of bringing the 21-year-old to Bilbao.
The former Osasuna starlet is a complete midfielder who can do it all. His creativity and control in the center of the pitch would bring a dynamic element to the Athletic squad and give them a star of the future at the same time. During the winter it is believed that Athletic were offering Newcastle a fee somewhere in the €10 million range so it may raise a bit. This potential deal will hinge on Newcastle’s ability to replace the midfielder, as well as Merino’s desire to make the move to the San Mamés. Will the third time be the charm?
Asier Illarramendi – Midfielder, Real Sociedad (28)
The Asier Illarramendi rumors came out of nowhere and were entirely dismissed at first. But they haven’t slowed down and every passing weeks gives the feeling that the interest may actually be serious. With Athletic’s purchase of Iñigo Martinez there is a belief that the Lions could once again raid their rivals for a top player, and it also helps the case when you take into account the close friendship of the two players. Still, the thought of Athletic signing Illarramendi seems preposterous, but then again the same was said of Martinez.
The 28-year-old should be well known by most. He performs his best in a defensive midfielder role, but also possesses the passing ability to really dominate centrally. Bringing his experience into the team would greatly improve Athletic’s midfield and give the team a leader that can do a lot of different things. For this move to happen Athletic would absolutely have to pay his €35 million release clause while also convincing the player to leave his boyhood club. Will lightning strike twice?
Ander Herrera – Midfielder, Manchester United (28)
Another summer, another round of Ander Herrera being linked with a return to Athletic Club. Reports in England claim that the midfielder will be one of the players leaving Manchester United this season and that there will be several clubs lining up in hopes of signing him. Reports in Spain have gone as far to say that he would prefer a return to Athletic, but some others have tipped Atletico Madrid to be the frontrunners.
Athletic fans already know what they would get with Herrera. He is a box-to-box midfielder that can create, score goals, and defend. He would be the perfect spark to tie everything together and could fill a multitude of rolls. Still, there is no certainty that Manchester United will definitely sell the 28-year-old and, even if they did, Athletic would have stiff competition. Will the Prodigal Son return home?
Iñigo Ruiz de Galarreta – Midfielder, Barcelona B (24)
Iñigo Ruide de Galarreta is the story of what could have been. The Lezama product seemed destined for greatness with Athletic Club, but two serious knee injuries presumably stunted his career growth. After several loan spells he found a permanent home with Numancia where he began to flourish. After one season Barcelona came calling for him to join their B team and Athletic, who had the right to bring him back, declined to stand in the way. Now, one year later, he has become one of the best midfielders in the second division.
The 24-year-old is a magician in the midfield. He is a terrific passer who is also dangerous with the ball at his feet. His skill set would be a welcome addition to Athletic’s stagnant midfield, but it remains to be seen if they will attempt to finally bring him back home. So far there is no word on how Barcelona views his career going forward, but one thing is certain – Galarreta has proven that his injury concerns are a thing of the past. Will the overcomer find his way back to the San Mamés?
Jonas Ramalho – Defender, Girona (24)
Girona were the feel-good story of Spanish football last year when they earned promotion to the top flight for the first time in club history. Former Athletic defender Jonas Ramalho had a big part to play in that. In this first season at the top they are competing for a Europa League spot and Ramalho has continued to play at a high level. While Athletic may be deep at defense right now, Ramalho has proven that he can compete in La Liga.
It wasn’t the first time Ramalho made history. Several years ago he became the first black player to wear the Athletic shirt. If Athletic were to bring back Ramalho it would not take much. The 24-year-old has a release clause of only €1.5 million and has said on several occasions that he would welcome a return to his boyhood club. For such a small fee, this could be a depth move to strengthen the squad, but the new manager will likely have to make the decision. Will the history maker come back home?
Nacho Monreal – Defender, Arsenal (32)
By now fans have got to be tired of hearing Nacho Monreal being linked with a move to Athletic Club. The Arsenal defender is now 32 years old and a veteran of the game who can play as a center-back or on the left side of the defense. There is no denying that he would be a solid addition to the Basque giants and would immediately make the team better, but the question remains whether or not it will ever happen.
Reports in England suggest, again, that Arsene Wenger, who has been a big fan of Monreal, could be on his way out of Arsenal. If he does make his exit then a new manager could decide to make Monreal available for transfer. If that were the case Athletic would once again be looking to bring him to the San Mamés. Still, this story is so old it is hard to believe any rumors at this point, although the club’s interest remains alive. Will this finally be the year?
Kike Barja – Winger, Osasuna (20)
Athletic may have missed out on Alex Berenguer last summer, but they could be looking to make up for the loss. Osasuna starlet Kike Barja has been heavily linked with Athletic Club who could be willing to activate his €4 million release clause this summer. The 20-year-old can play on either wing and has shown the ability to take on defenders and put himself in scoring chances.
With Athletic’s struggles in front of goal this season, adding another scoring option makes sense. Of course, Barja is still very young and inexperienced but he has shown the potential to develop into a very good player. This may be another case of waiting for the new manager to make a decision, but adding a young and exciting attacker to the squad could be a very good thing for competition and growth. Will Athletic raid their rivals?
Other Names To Watch
There are still a few other names to keep an eye on this summer as Athletic looks to improve their squad. PSG left-back Yuri Berchiche should be a target if the French giants make his available for transfer this summer. He is widely seen as the best Basque left-back in football and the Lions should be looking for a way to bring him to the San Mamés.
There has also been talk of a possible return for Fernando Llorente with Athletic knowing that they need to find scoring options behind Aritz Aduriz. This move has almost solely been discussed on a what if basis rather than reported interest. Even then, fans seem torn on whether or not they want the former striker back in the team.
One final name that keeps coming up in discussions is Real Sociedad’s Alvaro Odriozola. There is no denying that he is a wonderful player and well on his way to becoming one of the best right-backs in Spain, but the move really doesn’t look likely. His high clause coupled with the fact that Athletic already have Oscar De Marcos and Ander Capa all but closes the possibility. If the Lions do want to sign the 22-year-old they would have to do so now because his price is only going to keep increasing.
Despite the shortcomings this season there is a lot to be excited about going into next year. There will be a new coach, some new faces, and perhaps a few of the names above could also be making the switch to the San Mamés. Change is coming and fans know that is a good thing, so let us know which of these targets you think are realistic and who you would like to see as the newest Athletic Club player.