Llorente eager to leave Bilbao
Spain striker Fernando Llorente has confirmed he plans to leave Athletic Bilbao when his contract expires at the end of the season.
The 27-year-old turned down the offer of a new deal and said he wanted to move on over the summer, but the Basque outfit refused to negotiate with potential suitors and hoped to change the player’s mind.
However, Llorente, who has spent a large chunk of the current league season on the bench due to the issue, yesterday announced that his decision was final.
“Yes, I’m leaving on June 30th,” he said. “I want to try other things.” Asked whether his decision was irreversible, he replied: “Yes. I made it when I played my first match at San Mames in the Europa League .”
Llorente – Athletic’s top scorer last term with 17 league goals – said the press were partly to blame for his departure, accusing them of turning sections of the club’s fans against him.
“Let it be clearly stated – it is not an economic issue,” he said. “Athletic’s offer was irresistible. The press has not really helped my renewal. It is one of the reasons that bad feeling has been generated towards me on the field , and that’s what has prompted me to not renew. That, along with many other things.
Tipped the balance
“You have not helped because most of what has come out in the press has been lies, but people have tipped the balance against me.”
Athletic Bilbao could, of course, opt to cash in on their prize asset in the January transfer window rather than lose him for free next summer.
Llorente’s announcement will put some of Europe’s top clubs on alert, with the 6ft 5in forward having reportedly attracted the attention of numerous sides including Juventus, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal in the past.
Elsewhere, Chelsea look to have competition in their aim of appointing Pep Guardiola as manager next summer after it emerged Paris Saint-Germain will also be competing for the talented manager’s services.
Chelsea look likely to have to compete with the big-spending Paris club to recruit Guardiola when his current sabbatical comes to an end. The French side’s Qatari owners have reportedly lost patience with manager Carlo Ancelotti whose side are five points off the top of Ligue. They have already secured a spot in the Champions League knock-out phase.