Liverpool must battle the Basques, if they really want Illarramendi

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Asier Illarramendi has been tipped for a move to Anfield, but Liverpool won't be without competition for the midfielder.

Athletic Club Bilbao upset the odds by beating Barcelona over two legs in the Spanish Super Cup. After an impressive 4-0 victory at San Mames, Los Leones stood firm to earn a 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou on Monday night, securing the trophy with a 5-1 aggregate win.

Now they'll be hoping to beat the odds in the transfer market, with what could be a blockbuster signing, as they weigh up a move for central midfielder Asier Illarramendi.

Back in January this year, Athletic tested the resolve of Real Madrid by making a formal approach for Illarramendi. Struggling for games under Carlo Ancelotti, at the time, the Italian coach admitted a bid had been received, but was ultimately rejected.

With the pending arrival of Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic from Inter Milan, once more, the future of the 25-year-old at the Bernabeu is being called into question. This time, the decision over Illarramendi's future will be made by Rafa Benitez.

Last weekend, Catalan outlet Mundo Deportivo claimed Illarramendi was "studying an offer from Liverpool." However, the Liverpool Echo seemed to pour scorn on such reports, given how many times the player has been linked with interest from Anfield, already over recent months.

If that interest does turn out to be true though, Liverpool will certainly have a Basque battle on their hands, should Real Madrid declare the player is available on the transfer market, with the clock ticking before the summer window closes.

Athletic Club Bilbao are almost certain to rekindle their interest, having missed out last January. Given their self-imposed restriction of signing only Basque players, Illarramendi becoming available would be too good an opportunity for them to miss.

Athletic won't be the only Basque club in the bidding. Illarramendi left Real Sociedad in 2013 to take a step up in his career with Real Madrid, but there's a good chance this summer he could return to Anoeta, according to the regional correspondent for Mundo Deportivo.

Real Sociedad apparently made their first enquiries towards the end of last season, making a bid of around €15 million. Whilst they can't compete with Liverpool financially, club president Jokin Aperribay is said to be keen on making a serious effort to lure the player back. An increased bid is expected.

Importantly, David Moyes has had a difficult summer trying to improve his squad, so Illarramendi returning to Real Sociedad would be an excellent acquisition for the Scottish coach, who hopes to steer his team into the European positions in La Liga.

For all interested parties, the suggestions in the Spanish capital are that Illarramendi wants to stay put. He also wants regular games too, which he's increasingly less likely to get at the Bernabeu, with further competition on the way.

Liverpool, Athletic Club Bilbao and Real Sociedad, all appear keen to offer him what he craves. Choosing where to head, will certainly give Illarramendi plenty to think about in the meantime.

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