Rafa Alkorta Confirms Gonzalo Higuain Does Not Fit Athletic’s Player Policy
Over the past few days stories have been making the rounds linking Athletic with a summer move for Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain. It all started when an article from Marca posed the the question of what if Athletic loosened the player policy to allow Higuain to play for the club and other news outlets took it a step further. Some went as far to claim that Athletic were already in contact with the Argentine and lining up a transfer.
There’s just one problem. Gonzalo Higuain doesn’t meet Athletic’s player policy of being born in the Basque Country or formed at a Basque youth academy. While it’s true that Higuain has a Basque great-grandfather, that doesn’t qualify him to play for the club. Put simply, Athletic have no intention of pursuing Higuain this summer because he doesn’t meet the requirements.
In light of the recent news cycle, Sporting Director Rafa Alkorta has clarified the situation. During an interview with El Transistor on Onda Cero, Alkorta clearly explained that Gonzalo Higuain cannot play for Athletic.
“No, he doesn’t enter the philosophy. I wish he was born or formed here because then we would try to bring him to the club, but you already know that if a player doesn’t meet one of the two criteria then a grandparent isn’t enough. I remember Fernando Redondo had a relative in Oyón and at some point when we were at Real Madrid he asked me if he could play for Athletic. I told him it wouldn’t be possible.”
Athletic President Aitor Elizegi was also asked about the rumors during his own interview with Beste Bat on Tele7 and took a different approach. “Surely we won’t pursue an already finished project,” Elizegi said jokingly.
Elizegi was referring to the fact that Higuain is already 32 years old and coming to the end of his career, likening it to the reason why the club didn’t pursued Fernando Llorente over the summer. “With Llorente we had other strikers that we bet on. We need to trust Lezama for the future.”
From there, the president was then given a list of names of possible transfer targets to discuss. Elizegi didn’t have much to say, but explained that Athletic have no intention of trying to sign Álvaro Odriozola or Mikel Oyarzabal.
“Odriozola is a player with quality but I don’t think so because we have Capa,” said Elizegi. “It’s indisputable that Oyarzabal has a special quality, but there are players at Lezama in which we have a lot of hope.”
On the other hand, Elizegi once again left the door open for a possible return for Ander Herrera and Javi Martinez. Both players are expected to leave their respective clubs this summer and Athletic will be attentive to their situations.
“Herrera is a good fit. He can be an illusion for us and a player who could bring good football to Athletic. For Javi Martinez there’s still time to help Athletic, but it’s also very important that he wants to come and leave his current situation. He can give us something that we don’t have at Lezama without cutting the trajectory of young players who are ascending.”
As expected, Elizegi was also asked about the future of Unai Núñez. The defender has yet to agree to a new contract despite playing more regularly in recent months and the president admitted that it would be difficult to replace Núñez were he to leave.
“Our policy has always been that the talent we have managed to develop at Lezama stays here because we have a hard time finding other players who fulfill our philosophy and can be a professional player. That’s why we bet on our own. Where do we look for a Núñez tomorrow if he leaves? We prefer that players who understand the club, who are already part of it, stay with us. That’s always the first option.”
Depending on how the rest of the season plays out it could be a very busy summer for Athletic. A number of older players look to be on their way out of the club with starlets ready to fight for their place in the squad. Both Rafa Alkorta and Aitor Elizegi haven’t been shy about their desire to strengthen the team, but Gonzalo Higuain will not be an option to make the move to San Mamés.