New Athletic Bilbao sporting director Rafa Alkorta has said his club are keen on bringing back Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera and Tottenham forward Fernando Llorente — as well as other former players during the transfer window.
The former Athletic and Real Madrid player, Alkorta, took on the position at the start of the year following the election of Aitor Elizegi as the new club president and said his side are in need of experienced reinforcements to help the club avoid relegation.
Athletic’s club policy is to only sign players born in the Basque Country or who came through the youth ranks of Basque clubs, though they have money to spend following the sale of Kepa Arrizabalaga to Chelsea for €80 million in the summer.
“We are interested in Javi Martinez, Ibai Gomez, Ander Herrera, Fernando Llorente…all of them interest us,” Alkorta told Cadena SER after Monday’s 2-1 win at Celta Vigo which lifted Athletic to 17th in La Liga. “It’s obvious that any player that can play for Athletic is of interest to us.
“Nothing is easy but we are interested in having all of the ones that can come. We have not made any moves yet. We will start on Tuesday and we will see what can be done.”
Despite Athletic’s principle targets being at higher level clubs, Alkorta is not giving up hope of attracting them back to San Mames.
“We still don’t know — we haven’t made a move yet,” he said when asked if it was possible bring back Herrera or Martinez. “We will get to work tomorrow.
“We have to talk to the coach to see what his needs are. We have 27 players in the squad. We have to talk to the president and look at what we can get. But we haven’t made any moves yet.”
Herrera left Athletic in the summer of 2014 after United activated his release clause. The 29-year-old, who has scored two goals and set up three more in 14 league appearances for United this season, is in negotiations to sign a new deal – with several Spanish clubs interested should he be available on a free transfer in the summer.
However, the player’s preference is to continue at Old Trafford.
Llorente’s contract also expires this summer. The forward recently said he would like to return to Athletic, where he played until 2013. However, the Tottenham man said he had not received an offer from the Basque outfit.
The 33-year-old has made five league appearances for Spurs, all as a substitute, but scored a hat trick in a 7-0 triumph at Tranmere in the FA Cup on Jan. 4.
Bayern’s Martinez has started in just one game since Nov. 24 and the midfielder has not ruled out a return to Athletic in the future.