Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera and Tottenham Hotspur forward Fernando Llorente are among the former Athletic Bilbao players whom new sporting director Rafa Alkorta identifies as potential January transfer targets.
Limited by a strict policy to only employ players from Basque Country or players who came through the academies of other Basque teams, Alkorta said Monday that he will begin inquiring about the availability of Herrera, 28, and Llorente, 33. He’ll also ask about other former players such as Javi Martinez of Bayern Munich and Deportivo winger Ibai Gomez.
“We are interested in Javi Martinez, Ibai Gomez, Ander Herrera, Fernando Llorente … all of them interest us,” Alkorta told Cadena SER, as translated by Adriana Garcia of ESPN FC. “It’s obvious that any player that can play for Athletic is of interest to us.
“Nothing is easy but we are interested in having all of the ones that can come. We have not made any moves yet. We will start on Tuesday and we will see what can be done.”
Athletic Bilbao are in a relegation battle, as they sit 17th after accumulating just 19 points from 18 La Liga games.
The Basque side earned almost £70 million from the sales of Herrera and Martinez, while Llorente and Gomez, both 29, left on free transfers. The club took a cautious approach to reinvesting the transfer fees but appears ready to spend in January. The club made more than £130 million over the last two summers with the sales of Aymeric Laporte to Manchester City and Kepa Arrizabalaga to Chelsea.
Alkorta added that manager Gaizka Garitano will have his say before the process begins.
“We have to talk to the coach to see what his needs are,” he said. “We have 27 players in the squad. We have to talk to the president and look at what we can get. But we haven’t made any moves yet.”
Of the four players, Martinez and Llorente appear to be the most realistic options for Athletic considering their limited roles with their respective clubs this season.