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Feb, 8, 2013

Aduriz: Llorente saga 'uncomfortable'

Athletic Bilbao striker Aritz Aduriz admits that the long-running Fernando Llorente transfer saga has been "uncomfortable" for everyone at the club.

The drama finally appeared to be over two weeks ago when Llorente agreed to join Juventus next summer, however an interview last weekend where he spoke about his unhappiness with the actions of the club and local media has again dominated the week's headlines in Bilbao.

Aduriz, 31, told Friday's Mundo Deportivo that the issue continued to be a distraction, and had taken the focus away from Sunday evening's important Primera Division clash with Espanyol at San Mames.

"It is an uncomfortable situation for everyone," Aduriz said. "Everyone, him as well, want to stop talking about these type of things and focus a bit on what is really important to us, which is that the team moves forward. This week, for example, there has been very little talk about the game against Espanyol."

After reaching the Europa League and Copa del Rey finals last season, Athletic exited both competitions at the first hurdle this season amid stories of dressing-room disharmony and boardroom errors.

The continuing controversy has partially hidden the fact that Athletic have been playing better recently. They are an unbeaten in three La Liga games, with their last home outing bringing a cathartic 3-0 win over Atletico Madrid, avenging defeat by the same score in that Europa League decider

Aduriz, who has been coach Marcelo Bielsa's first choice ahead of Llorente up front all season, admitted the drama around the club during the first half of the season had negatively affected results, but hoped the players were now ready to push on.

"We had a very inconsistent start, very turbulent, with lots of things that did not help anyone," he said. "We were not able to isolate ourselves from that, and the results did not go for us. That weighed on us and it took a lot to turn everything around. No we are in a moment to move on and get back to the positive rhythm of last year."

At times Aduriz seemed the only Athletic player not affected by the poor atmosphere around the club, and the former Mallorca and Valencia centre-forward currently has 12 goals in 21 La Liga games this season. The San Sebastian born player added that he had thought about breaking his personal career record of 18.

"You always try to improve every year, above all to help the team," he said. "For me that means scoring goals. Sometimes with success, other times with less. My footballing memory is somewhat selective, but the truth is sometimes a forward carries these numbers in their head and always wants to improve them."

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