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Kepa signs new Athletic Bilbao contract to end Real Madrid interest

Real Madrid target Kepa Arrizabalaga has signed a new Athletic Bilbao contract that runs until June 2025 and has an €80 million release clause, the club have announced.

Kepa, 23, whose previous contract had been due to end in the summer, has been strongly linked with Madrid in recent months.

But the Spain international has chosen to stay, and an Athletic statement said: "Athletic Club and Kepa Arrizabalaga have signed a contract extension so that the player remains at the club until June 30, 2025. His release clause will be €80m."

The Spain international told his club's website: "I'm very happy to continue at the club that I consider home. I've been here a long time, almost 15 years. I joined when I was nine. I think this is a very important time in my career.

"Considering that my contract was ending [June], from January 1, I was free to negotiate [with other clubs]. There were offers but I believe the best option for me was to continue at Athletic for a very long time. I'm very happy to have signed this contract."

Athletic were unwilling to sell Kepa and had been hopeful that he would sign a new deal. A youth product of Athletic, Kepa made his league debut in September 2016 and the La Liga club had since tried to extend his contract.

"It has been a long negotiation," he said. "Those who know me know that I'm someone that likes to think things through, take my time and analyze everything before making a decision. I want to thank the club for respecting this and allowing me the time to take my decision.

"I'm delighted that it has ended in the best possible way. I want to thank the fans for their support throughout this time. I"m eager to return the confidence and the respect on the pitch."

Bilbao newspaper El Correo reported that Kepa had grown tired of waiting for Real to make a move and decided to accept Athletic's new deal. Onda Cero radio recently said his possible transfer had been put on hold after a medical earlier this month revealed a foot problem.

Marca said that meant Real would only consider signing him in the summer and hence avoid paying a €20m release clause.

Kepa, 23, has been sidelined with metatarsalgia in his right foot since Dec. 16 but he is keen to make Spain's World Cup squad and has opted for conservative treatment.

"It's an injury that needs its time," Kepa said. "I've noticed an improvement in recent weeks. I think I'm close to returning to the group but I don't want to give myself a timeframe or rush back. The important thing is to recover well. I hope to be back as soon as possible."

Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.

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