Iker Muniain Sets A New Standard By Signing Contract Renewal Without A Release Clause
A while back then-President Josu Urrutia stated that, in an ideal world, Athletic players would not have release clauses in their contracts. “If you don’t want to leave, why put a price?”, he asked. His hope was to see players fully committed to the club and for their contracts to reflect their loyalty. At the time the statement just seemed like wishful thinking, but not something that would ever actually happen. Release clauses exist to protect players and allow them to control their own careers. However, what seemed like an unrealistic dream is now a reality.
On Wednesday, Iker Muniain signed a contract extension with Athletic Club through 2024 that does not contain a release clause. The 25-year-old told AthleticTV that he felt it was the right decision to thank the club and the fans for their support over the years and show his loyalty to the club. His teammates embraced him at training, fans have come out with resounding affection, and his legend has grown. The decision to not include a release clause in his contract isn’t just unprecedented, it’s a statement.
Since Decree 1006 in 1985 which established release clauses there have only been a handful of cases where a player elected not to insert a clause in their contract. Muniain’s new deal is extremely rare in Spanish football, although it is legal, and sends a very clear message about his intentions and the goal of Athletic.
Muniain has always been outspoken about the fact that he wants the best players at Athletic to stay at the club. He’s seen Javi Martinez, Fernando Llorente, Ander Herrera, Aymeric Laporte, and Kepa Arrizabalaga all leave the San Mamés for other teams, but he wants more loyalty from the players, especially those raised at Lezama. The 25-year-old has backed up those statements with his new contract.
“This was a way to show my loyalty to the club”, said Muniain. That is what this entire thing is about. Loyalty. Muniain wanted to prove his loyalty and dedication by essentially committing to playing at Athletic Club for the rest of his career. “I am fulfilling the dream that I have always had since I arrived at Lezama, which was to spend my entire career at Athletic”, he told AthleticTV.
Iker Muniain has made his statement, proving his loyalty with more than just mere words. The decision was surprising because not having a release clause is so rare, but it shouldn’t come as a shock. The 25-year-old – who has already appeared in 359 games for Athletic since making his debut at 16 – will spend the rest of his career at the club he loves so much. The real question is will other players follow this same path moving forward?
There are many other Athletic players who are just as committed as Iker Muniain. Markel Susaeta, Oscar De Marcos, Mikel San José, and others have all turned down offers from much bigger clubs throughout their careers because their only desire was to stay at Athletic. At this point it may not be surprising to see them do something similar in future contracts to also demonstrate their loyalty, but it will be interesting to see if younger stars such as Gorka Guruzeta, Yeray, and Peru Nolaskoain entertain the idea.
Athletic Club is a family and the goal has always been loyalty. Young players at Lezama are taught that Athletic is the biggest club in the world and playing at the San Mamés is the highest honor. Although some players have chosen to leave the club, far more have remained loyal to the Zurigorri.
The club has also been dedicated to showing loyalty to the players, as have the fans. It’s a well-known fact that Athletic take great care of their players through contracts, recognition, and showing support in the difficult times. Loyalty goes both ways and that has long been the case at Athletic Club. Perhaps Muniain’s decision to not include a release clause in his new contract will be a unique moment that doesn’t happen again for a very long time, but it also has the potential to galvanize a new standard and era at Athletic Club de Bilbao.
What Happens If Iker Muniain Decides That He Wants To Leave
Iker Muniain plans to spend the rest of his career at Athletic, but there is already a serious question being asked. Without a release clause, what happens if he decides that he wants to leave the club? The player would not be stuck at the club with no way out, but for another team to sign him they would have to go through a very difficult process that makes it unlikely to ever happen.
Article 16 of the Decree of 1985 states that a judge must be the one to make a ruling on what the compensation would be if a club were to sign a player that doesn’t have a release clause. Contrary to popular belief, release clauses are not mandatory in Spain, but players are still protected in the sense that a judge can determine their value.
The decision on the payment amount would be determined by several factors that would essentially make the fee very high to protect the club as well. In this situation, the buying club also wouldn’t know the determined price beforehand. It would only be determined after they have committed to purchasing the player which gives Athletic a major advantage and makes it extremely unlikely to ever happen.
Athletic would be protected even more if a club from outside Spain were to go through this process. Not only would they not know the fee beforehand, there would also be a sanction that would not allow the player to compete in an official match with the buying club for a period of 4-6 months. At the same time, the buying club would also be handed a second sanction preventing them from making any new signings for two consecutive transfer windows.
To put it simply, there is still a way that Iker Muniain could leave Athletic before his contract expires in 2024, but it is so unlikely that it is nearly impossible. At the end of the day the decision to not include a release clause in his new contract was a statement from Muniain that he will spend the rest of his career with his boyhood club. That has been his dream since arriving at Lezama at 13 years old and now it has become a wonderful reality.