Athletic Bilbao admit interest in Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta and Arsenal's Nacho Monreal

Nacho Monreal

Athletic Bilbao president Josu Urrutia would be keen on bringing Premier League defenders Cesar Azpilicueta and Nacho Monreal back to Spain.

Athletic Bilbao president Josu Urrutia has admitted to AS that his side are monitoring Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta and Arsenal’s Nacho Monreal.

Since 1912, Bilbao have followed a strict unwritten rule of only fielding players native to or trained in the greater Basque region, where the club is based, or from the neighbouring areas of Navarre and La Rioja.

Their pool of potential transfer targets is limited, therefore, forcing them to look to the likes of Azpilicueta and Monreal, who both hail from Navarre.

The La Liga club in fact pushed to sign the latter during the winter transfer window, according to El Confidencial, but Gunners manager Arsene Wenger was quick to reject their advances.

Nevertheless, Urrutia has revealed that the club are still monitoring the Spain international, along with fellow defender Azpilicueta, Real Madrid’s Asier Illarramendi and Atletico Madrid’s Raul Garcia.

"There was interest from Athletic in players, although it was focused on Illarramendi,” he told the Spanish newspaper. “There are not so many players: [Asier] Illarramendi, Raúl García, [Nacho] Monreal, [César] Azpilicueta. We have to be aware, monitoring– whether they continue at their clubs [or not], it’s because they are interesting."

Illarramendi appeared close to joining Bilbao last month in a €25 million deal, but the Real midfielder rejected a move amid reported interest from Arsenal, per AS.

Despite participating in the Champions League this season after a fourth-place La Liga finish, their efforts to sign both Azpilicueta and Monreal seem just as ambitious, with both defenders proving important squad members for their respective teams this season.

Azpilicueta, in particular, would look to be out of their reach, having penned a new deal until 2019 at Chelsea in September after starting the season as the club’s first-choice left-back over summer signing Filipe Luis.

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