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Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea target to quit Bilbao

Athletic Bilbao's Fernando Llorente. Photo credit: Adam Davy/EMPICS Athletic Bilbao's Fernando Llorente. Photo credit: Adam Davy/EMPICS

Tuesday, December 4, 2012
6:02 PM

Transfer news: Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea will be among a host of European club that have been put on red alert after Spain striker Fernando Llorente today confirmed he plans to leave Athletic Bilbao when his contract expires at the end of the season.

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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 Primera Division season on the bench due to the issue, today announced at a press conference that his decision was final.

“Yes, I’m leaving on June 30,” 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 (against Slaven Koprivnica on August 2).”

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 (from the fans), and that’s what has prompted me to not renew. That, along with many other things.

“You (the media) have not helped because most of what has come out in the press has been lies, but people have tipped the balance against me.

“That has come out on the field, with people blowing their whistles. It is (only) a section that wants me out, I respect that. I feel loved by most of the Athletic fans.”

Athletic 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 also including Juventus, Manchester City and Liverpool in the past.

Whenever he departs, and wherever he ends up, the player has vowed to give his all to Bilbao before he leaves.

“I feel the support of my colleagues - that is very important,” he said. “I will prove that I am with them to the death.”

Llorente, a product of the Athletic youth academy, made his senior debut in January 2005 and has since become a key man for the club, as well as winning both the World Cup and European Championship with Spain.

However, he has started only one game and scored only one goal in the Primera Division for Marcelo Bielsa’s side this season.

“What has come around is hurting us and does not sit well with us,” he added. “We try to work hard every week to get it right and get goals and wins.

“I am not thinking about anything more than being prepared to play each game here until June 30, when my contract finishes.

“What happens next... you will ask me, but I am not going to say anything because I am focused on the team. I have had chats with Bielsa, but they will remain between him and me.”

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