Bilbao chase former €32.2m Arsenal target after Arteta says no

Athletic Bilbao are set to replace Manchester United newbie Ander Herrera with Asier Illarramendi of Real Madrid.

Athletic Bilbao are not a team who want to be seen as a selling team. In the past they have held on to talents such as Ismael Urzaiz, Joseba Exteberria, Francisco Yeste and Julen Guerrero despite mass interest in their services - but times have changed.

The Basque club, who revel in their policy of only playing players native to the region in Spain, have recently seen Fernando Llorente and Javi Martinez depart for big bucks - and this summer they said goodbye to Ander Herrera.

The talented Spaniard has joined Manchester United for a fee in the region of £28.8 million after a transfer saga lasting over a year.

But now he is at the club Bilbao must replace him, and that is difficult for a team with such a small sample group to look at in the transfer market.

It has been mooted that Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta was the main transfer target. The Basque born former Real Sociedad player would have been a perfect and experienced replacement in the heart of midfield.

But his agent Inaki Ibanez has insisted he is going nowhere this week - stating:

"This is totally false. Mikel has no interest in leaving Arsenal."

And now it appears Athletic have their eyes on a new target, and a much more eye-catching one at that.

In June last year Arsenal were heavily linked with a move to sign Real Sociedad midfielder Asier Illarramendi. Reports were even doing the rounds that a deal was done to sign the young midfield maestro.

But Arsenal were usurped by Real Madrid, Illarra joining Los Merengues for a staggering €32.2 million in July last year.

But he has not gone on to dizzy heights at The Bernabeu. In fact he has played just 1388 minutes of La Liga football, compared to the 2712 he played the season previously and the 2023 played by Xabi Alonso or the 2648 played by Luka Modric.

Now it is reported Athletic could bring the Basque-man back ton his homeland, although as a former Sociedad player it would be a splitting move no doubt.

The rumour mill suggests that Bilbao could sign him permanently, however Real are more inclined to let him out on loan instead.

It would be a positive move for the player, and one which would see him play regular football and in the Champions League no less.

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