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Aug 13, 2012

Athletic stand firm over Llorente

Athletic Bilbao president Josu Urrutia says striker Fernando Llorente can leave this summer - but only if someone is willing to pay the Spain international's €36 million release clause.

• Juve announce Llorente talks
• Llorente set to leave Bilbao

Basque TV station ETB last week reported that Llorente, 27, had made up his mind to leave. Urrutia called a press conference at Athletic's Ibaigane facility on Monday morning to confirm that the player's agents had said he would not to sign a new contract - reportedly worth €4.5 million a year - because he saw his future elsewhere.

"We spoke last season and we let him see how important it was for us that he renewed," Urrutia said. "He told us after [this summer's] European Championship he was going to give us a final answer. Then ten days ago I received a call from his agents, who told me the main reason he wanted to leave was success in challenging for trophies. I let them know my disappointment, but was told the decision was final."

Italian press reports say Serie A champions Juventus are preparing a €16 million bid for the target man. Premier League side Tottenham are also interested, but he is apparently determined to play Champions League football.

Urrutia said Athletic hoped Llorente - who has 12 months remaining on his current deal - would stay in Bilbao and perhaps change his mind but that, if another club met the release clause in his contract, a move could happen.

"We are not talking to any other club because Athletic is not a selling club," Urrutia, a former Athletic player said.

"For him to leave Athletic, the player must not want to be with us and other clubs who want him must pay the amount of the release clause in his contract. I continue to want Fernando Llorente to remain here. In interviews he has said he wants to stay. I believe we have all done enough [for that to happen]."

Llorente featured twice as a substitute as last year's Europa League finalists Athletic eased past Croatians Slaven SK in last week's Europa League qualifying round.

Rumours in Spain suggest his relationship with club coach Marcelo Bielsa has been strained, particularly after a disappointing end to last season, which also included a heavy Copa del Rey final loss to Barcelona.

The future of Llorente's Athletic and Spanish international colleague Javi Martinez also remains up in the air, with persistent reports in Germany that he has agreed to sign for Bayern Munich.

Urrutia did not mention Martinez by name in Monday's press conference but stated that no player had told the club directly that they wish to leave.

Barcelona have also been linked with Martinez - who can play in midfield or defence - but turned their sights to Arsenal's Alex Song after being quoted a €40 million price by the Basque club.

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