Asier Illarramendi: I Don’t See Myself In The Athletic Shirt
Athletic Club have been chasing Asier Illarramendi since he was a teenager growing up in Real Sociedad’s youth academy. Every time the transfer window opens the Lions are once again linked with a move for the talented midfielder, but nothing has come to fruition. Recently his name crept back into rumors suggesting that he would be willing to follow one of his best friends, Iñigo Martinez, to the San Mamés. However, in a recent interview with El Diario Vasco the 28-year-old slammed that door shut.
“I am happy at Real and I don’t want to play at Athletic. I don’t see myself in the Athletic shirt. I know I will not play there, I am happy at Real Sociedad. I know my clause lessens by €5 million in June, but what does that really do? I do not intend on leaving. I know Iñigo [Martinez] very well and I got the impressions that he was not happy. He decided to leave. I tried to convince him to stay, but there was no going back. In the Derby we have to focus on ourselves, we can’t be thinking about Athletic or Iñigo.”
Hopeful Athletic fans will be quick to point out the fact that Iñigo Martinez had also said on many occasions that he could never leave Real Sociedad to join Athletic before ultimately doing just that in January. That being said, the fact that Illarramendi’s clause will lower to €35 million in June does make him a realistic target for Athletic if they could somehow convince him to accept their offer. In the meantime, the Lions will continue to pursue Ander Herrera and Mikel Merino this summer in hopes of strengthening what was a questionable midfield at best this season.
Due to Martinez leaving his boyhood club to join Athletic in January, Saturday’s Basque Derby is going to be as intense as ever. It’s true that neither side really has anything to play for in terms of the La Liga table, but with these two that rarely matters anyway. The Derby is about pride. If Athletic are able to pull off a win at the Anoeta, they will move level with Real Sociedad on points and will have the chance to finish the season as the top Basque club in the league.