x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Money talks, even at a club like Athletic Bilbao

Fernando Llorente and Javier Martinez have angered Bilbao fans by requesting to leave the Basque club – a move which is financially motivated.

Javier Martinez has upset the Basque fans by requesting a move. He is set to join Bayern Munich. Samuel Kubani / AFP
Javier Martinez has upset the Basque fans by requesting a move. He is set to join Bayern Munich. Samuel Kubani / AFP

It is all going awry for Athletic Bilbao - and not just because they have lost their first two league games of 2012/13.

The Basques promised so much last season and reached two cup finals, losing both. They looked set to lose both their best players all summer too, but neither their Spanish international striker Fernando Llorente or his club and country compatriot Javi Martinez had moved by the start of this week. Athletic are a rich club who don't need the money and didn't want to sell, despite both players saying they wanted to leave.

The pair claimed they wanted to win trophies, but more money was undeniably a factor and the fans were furious. They expected more, especially from the home-grown Llorente who has turned down a €4.5 million (Dh20.25m) per year offer which would make him the best player in Athletic's history.

Fans took to the training ground last week with banners accusing both of being mercenaries. They blame both for betraying what the all-Basque club stands for.

Martinez, 23, who signed from Osasuna in 2006, is perceived to be slightly different because he did not come through the youth system.

He was the first to leave after signing for German giants Bayern Munich yesterday, a deal which will net Bilbao €40m. That makes the defensive midfielder the most expensive player ever bought by a German club.

It is sad when Athletic lose their stars to richer clubs. It also shows that money talks, even for players at a club with such strong moral values.