Rafa Alkorta “Yeray Is The Perfect Center-Back”
Yeray has become a pillar of the Athletic team since making his debut back in 2016. On Thursday, the defender reaffirmed his commitment to his boyhood club by signing a contract renewal that will run through 2026 and contains a €70 million release clause. During the press conference, Sporting Director and legendary Athletic defender Rafa Alkorta praised Yeray’s decision to stay at San Mamés as well as his quality on the field.
“It was important to us that Yeray continue here for many more years. He’s one of ours, he’s from Athletic. Also, last year he formed one of the best center-back pairings in Europe. We are very grateful for his commitment and will be able to sleep peacefully for many years because we have a great defender. He’s a top player in his position, one of the top three center-backs in La Liga.”
Alkorta likened Yeray’s style of play to two other legendary defenders. “Yeray reminds me a lot of Puyol and Ayala who, without being very tall, are focused and anticipate the game very well”, explained the Sporting Director. “He reads the game so well and is also stronger and faster than the defenders of my time because of how football has evolved. He’s the perfect center-back.”
Yeray formed one of La Liga’s best center-back duos alongside Iñigo Martinez last season which was another point of emphasis from Alkorta. “Iñigo and Yeray are among the three best center-back pairings in LaLiga for sure, maybe even in Europe”, he said. “The union between the two is like a bombshell. We also have Unai (Nuñez) and when he plays the duo is still top. Their teammates know that the back is well covered.”
In closing, Alkorta was asked why Yeray’s new release clause was set at €70 million instead of a much higher number. The Sporting Director refused to give specifics and simply stated that the defender has chosen to continue his career with Athletic instead of moving elsewhere, but interest from other clubs will always be there.
“I said last year that other clubs would contemplate calling for Yeray because he’s a player with the level to have many suitors. He’s a top defender and it doesn’t surprise me that others would be interested in him. There are teams, strong teams, who have asked for him and we had fear that one would knock on the door. Football is evolving. Of course, someone with €70 million can come for Yeray, but we will enjoy what we have. I’m not thinking about that and I will sleep well. The important thing is that he will continue with us.”
For his part, President Aitor Elizegi also praised Yeray as someone who means a lot to Athletic both on and off the field. The defender has become a leader for the Lions and will protect the defense for the foreseeable future.
“This is a very important step for us. We have valued Yeray’s work and what he means to us, not only as an athlete but also as a person. The things that people like Yeray bring to the locker room are very important. He arrived here as a kid at Lezama and his effort has become a reality. It’s very difficult to find such a player at home. We have insured the center of our defense for many, many years to come.”
With Yeray’s renewal now official, Athletic will give their full attention to the ongoing negotiations with Raúl García and Unai Nuñez. Meanwhile, Mikel San José and Beñat are both entering the final year of their contracts and the club will be analyzing their performances this season to determine whether or not to offer renewals.