Athletic Reportedly Lining Up Move To Bring Aitor Fernández Back To Bilbao
Iago Herrerín’s days in Bilbao are numbered. Despite still having one year left on his contract the goalkeeper has been very outspoken about his frustration with lack of minutes, even going as far to say that he’s had offers from other clubs. To his credit, Herrerín has maintained that he’s at the disposal of the club and will finish his contract with full commitment if that’s what the club wants, but that seems unlikely.
It’s no secret that Gaizka Garitano wants Herrerín to see out the final year of his contract. The manager has faith in the 31-year-old and greatly values his veteran experience behind Unai Simón who is still very young. However, the club won’t stand in his way if Herrerín asks to leave. In fact, Sporting Director Rafa Alkorta is already lining up a replacement.
In March it was reported that Athletic had identified Levante’s Aitor Fernández as the top choice to replace Herrerín. Along with being a Lezama graduate, Fernández has been one of the best goalkeepers in La Liga over the past year. The 29-year-old boasts a 76% save rate and has made 121 saves this season, far more than any other goalkeeper in the league.
Fernández would be a perfect replacement for Herrerín, in fact it would be an upgrade, but signing the Levante ace won’t be easy. His current €30 million release clause poses a major problem and joining Athletic would almost certainly mean that Fernández would be trading a starting role to feature as the backup to Unai Simón. Even still, a move isn’t impossible.
“I have always said that at some point in my career I would like to go home,” Fernández said back in March. “I would like to return to Athletic, but I don’t know if it’s the time or not. A lot of things would have to be valued.” Fernández has had a lot of time to think since then and seems to have made up his mind.
According to a new report from Cadena Cope de Valencia, Alkorta has already told Fernández’s representatives that the club wants to bring him back to San Mamés next season. Although Fernández is still under contract through 2023, the goalkeeper is said to have informed Levante that he believes his time with the Granotas has come to an end and would like to return to Athletic.
Paying Fernández’s release clause isn’t an option for Athletic, but Levante would be expected to significantly lower the asking price if the goalkeeper formally requests to leave the club. Fernández joined Lezama at 12 years old, spending his entire childhood with Athletic, and his dream was always to play for the first team. If Herrerín departs this summer, Aitor Fernández could soon be on his way back home.