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Dublin: 13 °C Sunday 20 May, 2018

Bielsa plays down talk of Llorente exit

Star striker won’t be allowed to leave the club just yet.

Athletic Bilbao's striker Fernando Llorente still has a key role to play at the club.
Athletic Bilbao's striker Fernando Llorente still has a key role to play at the club.
Image: Gaizka Bilbao/AP/Press Association Images

ATHLETIC BILBAO COACH Marcelo Bielsa has sought to downplay talk that star striker Fernando Llorente is set to leave the club.

The Spain international has long been linked with an exit from San Mames, with his contract ending next summer.

However, Bielsa has instead insisted that speculation that he will leave in the January transfer window is premature, preferring instead to focus on the club’s upcoming league fixtures.

“Llorente leaving Athletic is raising long-term scenarios now. He’ll play the next match with the same team that played the last one (against Ironi Kiryat Shmona),” Bielsa said ahead of the team’s clash with Malaga on Sunday.

“However, I may replace (Borja) Ekiza, (instead of Fernando) Amorebieta, if he has trouble (with injury). The game (against Malaga) is an excellent test to claim points we should’ve won.”

Meanwhile, the Argentine trainer also explained his decision to substitute Aritz Aduriz in the Europa League clash against the Israeli outfit that ended 1-1.

“Aduriz is a player that when he links with players behind him, he does it effectively. The other day, I found that the game forced him to linger (around), and decided to make changes,” he said.

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