And Then There Were Nine: Athletic Club Must Address The Expiring Contracts Of Nine Other Players After Renewing Iker Muniain
With the January transfer window rapidly approaching Ibaigane has been solely focused on the contract situation of Iker Muniain. The 25-year-old was set to see his deal expire in June and coming to an agreement on a renewal was the club’s top priority. Negotiations were handled with relative ease as Muniain penned an extension through 2024 that doesn’t contain a release clause and now Athletic can turn their attention to others.
Now that Muniain’s new deal is settled, there are nine other players who are currently on expiring contracts. Every situation is different. Some players will have to choose if they want to continue playing, while others are trying to do everything they can to convince the club that they deserve to stay at the San Mamés. Difficult decisions must be made and Athletic will likely start addressing some of these contracts in the weeks to come.
Only one goalkeeper will see his deal end in June and that case is settled. Alex Remiro has already told the club that he has no plans to renew his contract and has refused to even negotiate. He will be leaving Athletic on 30 June and sources claim that he has already come to an agreement with rivals Real Sociedad. Players are not allowed to talk to other clubs until January so whether or not that story is true remains to be seen.
Looking at the defense there are three players that require attention. Oscar De Marcos will be the simplest deal due to the fact that he is a starter and completely dedicated to the club. Once negotiations begin they will be very simple and straight forward. Meanwhile, Mikel Balenziaga is still waiting to see what his future holds. The 30-year-old has taken on a lesser role since the club signed Yuri Berchiche, but he has still played very well when called upon. It will be up to him to convince the club that he deserves an extension, but a talented young player like Andoni López could also influence Ibaigane’s decision.
Xabi Etxeita’s situation is interesting. The center-back is currently enjoying a very successful loan spell with Huesca and his contract with Athletic will expire on 30 June. However, the club does have a clause that will allow them to automatically renew his deal for one more season if they choose to do so. With players like Yeray, Unai Nuñez, Iñigo Martinez, and even Peru Nolaskoain standing in his way it seems unlikely that Etxeita will continue at Athletic, but his fine form could change things.
Moving into the midfield Ander Iturraspe and Mikel Rico are in peculiar situations. Iturraspe has barely featured this year and doesn’t appear to be part of the club’s plans, but he’s also given everything for Athletic. The rest of the season will surely shine more light on his future at the San Mamés. At the same time, Mikel Rico looked set for an extremely limited role this year but has found the favor of Eduardo Berizzo. His age suggests that his time with Athletic is coming to an end, but if he continues to play well and is trusted by the coaches the club could look to offer him a renewal.
Lastly, there are three forwards who are all facing different circumstances. To begin with, Markel Susaeta’s situation is the same as Oscar De Marcos. The winger is fully committed to the club and once the two sides sit down to negotiate a renewal will come very quickly. Aritz Aduriz, on the other hand, will have to make a decision just like he has the past few years. If the 37-year-old wants to play another season he will simply tell the club and sign a one-year contract, but the choice is his.
The chances of Sabin Merino earning a new deal are slim. He initially refused to leave on loan over the summer because he wanted to fight for his place in the squad, but the coaches urged him to finally accept an offer from Leganés so that he could play regular minutes. Since making the move he’s only featured in four matches, starting twice, and has yet to establish himself. The Lezama product dreams of spending his entire career at Athletic, but unless he can find a way to impress while on loan that might not happen.
As things stand right now Oscar De Marcos and Markel Susaeta are expected to sign renewals with ease and Aritz Aduriz will make a decision for himself. Xabi Etxeita, Ander Iturraspe, Mikel Rico, and Sabin Merino will all have to prove themselves worthy of an extension. Alex Remiro is the only player certain to leave. Athletic are in great financial standing and desire to have the best Basque players representing the club. The time is coming for difficult decisions to be made and these players will be in the spotlight in the weeks and months to come.