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Jun, 26, 2013

Benat returns to Athletic

Athletic Bilbao have confirmed the signing of midfielder Benat Etxebarria from Real Betis for an undisclosed fee, believed to be between €8 million and €10 million.

Benat: Betis' driving force
Benat Etxebarria came through Athletic Bilbao's youth ranks

The Spain international’s departure from Betis has long been mooted, with Manchester City, Chelsea, Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich all having considered moves for the playmaker, who was valued at up to €20 million in some reports.

The Basque, now 26, initially came through Athletic’s youth ranks but was released in 2008 having made just one senior appearance.

Benat subsequently played a key role as Betis progressed from the Segunda Division to Europa League qualification in just three seasons, and was in Vicente del Bosque’s preliminary squad for this summer’s Confederations Cup, although he did not make the final cut.

The return home to Vizcaya was confirmed via a statement released on Athletic’s official website on Wednesday morning.

"Athletic Club and Real Betis Balompie have reached an agreement for the transfer of Benat Etxebarria to our club, which should be completed this afternoon with the ending of the player's relationship with the verdiblanco outfit,” the statement read. “The player will remain at Athletic Club for the next five seasons."

Benat will now play under new Los Leones coach Ernesto Valverde, who last week replaced the departing Marcelo Bielsa.

Elche centre-half Xabier Etxeita, another former Athletic youth product who was released and built a career elsewhere, is also expected to rejoin the club in the coming weeks.

Ex-Espanyol captain Joan Verdu, who joined Betis on a free transfer on Monday, is seen as an indirect playmaking replacement for Benat in the Seville side's midfield.

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