Athletic Waiting Until After Gaizka Garitano’s Renewal To Address Other Issues
Athletic have found their manager in Gaizka Garitano. No one could have predicted just how well the Lions would perform under the coach when he took over on 4 December, but the team has turned the entire season around. There is no doubt about it. Garitano has gotten the very best out of the players; he exudes confidence and has proven himself capable of leading the Zurigorri. He will continue as the manager next season, hopefully longer, and his future is the most pressing matter with his current deal set to expire in June.
Both President Aitor Elizegi and Sporting Director Rafa Alkorta have publically given Garitano their vote of confidence. They’ve stood by the manager since day one and never hid the fact that they want him to continue at the club. Taking it a step further, Alkorta has also made it clear that Athletic will not address any player issues, whether contracts or signings, until Garitano puts pen to paper on his new deal.
Several sources consulted by Inside Athletic have confirmed that Garitano is expected to sign a contract renewal during the international break, possibly within the next few days. An offer has been on the table for a few weeks now with both sides planning to finalize negotiations when the team moved clear of the relegation zone. Now, with just 10 games left on the schedule, it’s time to secure the future.
Once Garitano officially signs his new deal the club will turn their attention to other matters at hand. The manager will partner with Alkorta to make the decisions regarding the squad, signings, and other issues of the sort. To begin with, Markel Susaeta and Aritz Aduriz are also in need of renewals. The captain has publically stated that the club has yet to contact him about a possible extension, but that will change soon.
As soon as Garitano’s future at Athletic is sealed, extending Susaeta’s contract will become the next priority. Both the club and player want Susaeta to continue at San Mamés, so reaching an agreement should be fairly straight-forward. In the meantime, Aritz Aduriz has had an offer on the table for a while. The 38-year-old wants to play again next season and the decision will be left up to him. Aduriz first wants to return from his knee injury and prove that he can still perform at a high level before signing a new deal.
Mikel Rico and Ander Iturraspe are also in the final months of their contracts. The club currently has no plans to offer the midfielders extensions which means they will be leaving San Mamés this summer. Likewise, Sabin Merino and Xabi Etxeita are expected to make their exits at the end of the season. The pair are on expiring contracts as well and have been unable to convince while away on loan.
In addition, Garitano and Alkorta will have several decisions to make in regards to the squad’s depth. Players like Unai López, Mikel Vesga, Peru Nolaskoain, Gorka Guruzeta, and Iñigo Lekue are all on the outside looking in. There is also a desire to introduce youth into the squad with Iñigo Vicente, Unai Vencedor, Oihan Sancet, and Hodei Oleaga all set to train with the first team during the summer. Asier Villalibre, Gaizka Larrazabal, Jesús Areso, and Dani Vivian could also join that group.
Lastly, Athletic will look to make a few summer signings if possible. The club has been in contact with Bayern Munich’s Javi Martinez while also showing interest in Tottenham striker Fernando Llorente. The Basques have even been linked with moves for players like Alain Oyarzun, Iñigo Ruiz De Galarreta, Nacho Monreal, and Sergio Moreno to name a few.
It’s clear that Gaizka Garitano will be a big part of the team’s future moving forward. He and Alkorta will work hand-in-hand to put together the best team possible, but for that to happen the manager must first sign his new deal. Garitano’s renewal is the key that will open the rest of the doors for Athletic and everything from contracts to transfer signings depends on it.