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Nov 20, 2012

Llorente and Bilbao clash over no-show

The strained relationship between Fernando Llorente and Athletic Bilbao deteriorated further on Monday as player and club differed in their accounts of his no-show at a scheduled press conference.

Llorente and club president Josu Urrutia have had a worsening relationship since the striker declined to extend his contract last summer.

He had been supposed to appear at the regular post-training press briefing alongside teammate Jon Aurtenetxe, but the left-back faced reporters alone.

Athletic used their official Twitter account to announce that "as well as Aurtenetxe, Fernando Llorente should have appeared, but Llorente refused to go out", but the player said he had already agreed to do a TV interview at that time and could not be in two places at once.

The incident happened after Llorente had been criticised by some Bilbao fans and journalists for acknowledging cheers from Real Madrid fans during Saturday's 5-1 defeat at the Bernabeu. That came as Madrid's Ultras Sur directed anti-Basque chants at Athletic players Markel Susaeta and Carlos Gurpegui.

The centre-forward, also rebuked on Twitter for posing for a photo with international teammate Iker Casillas in the dressing-room after the game, told Telebilbao in the previously-scheduled interview that his critics were blowing everything out of proportion.

"It is all nonsense," he said. "When I came out to warm up, the stand where I was gave me a big round of applause. I wanted to make a gesture of appreciation because they know that things are not going well for me at the moment.

"They know me from the national team, and it was a gesture of affection. The insults to Gurpe and Susaeta came from a different area of the stadium. I am totally against those chants - no team-mate deserves them."

Llorente was less keen to discuss what might happen in January, when he will enter the last six months of his contract and be free to speak with potential suitors, who include Juventus and Arsenal.

He did admit, however, that his relationship with the club where he has spent his whole career was not good.

"I have already told the club that I did not like how I was treated," he said. "The messages in the press were very bad and did not help at all. Things have been distorted. There must be calm."

With Athletic coach Marcelo Bielsa sticking to his one centre-forward system and Aritz Aduriz in fine form, Llorente has started only one game this season, against minnows Eibar in the Copa del Rey.

But with Aduriz suspended for this weekend's Primera Division match at Deportivo la Coruna, Llorente said he hoped to get a chance to help his team.

"We will see," he added. "Aduriz is banned, so it could be. I am ready to go out and give everything. I am very motivated. It is a long time since I started a game."

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