According to former La Liga coach Javier Clemente speaking on Onda Vasca, Athletic Bilbao should make every effort to keep hold of Inigo Martinez as Aston Villa and Barcelona both compete for the Spanish international.
As a club with strict principles that only permit players from the Basque country to wear their colours, Athletic Bilbao faces a more difficult task in finding a replacement for their star players compared to other clubs.
Martinez’s contract with Athletic Bilbao ends in July, and if he were to leave, head coach Ernesto Valverde would have a limited pool of eligible players to choose from.
“We know that he is a very good player,” says Clemente, who has enjoyed three different spells as Athletic’s head coach.
“He has a character that suits Athletic perfectly; his dedication, his fight. If I were president, I would have already resolved this or almost resolved it.”
Barcelona, who have a strong defensive line, are interested in recruiting another top-level central defender.
Atletico Madrid and Aston Villa coach Unai Emery are also reportedly interested in the 31-year-old Inigo Martinez, who has been capped 19 times by Spain.
If Martinez were to join Villa, it would add competition for the left-sided centre-half position, and may lead to uncertainty over the futures of Tyrone Mings and Diego Carlos.
“If he stays, great,” Clemente adds. “I would tell him that he is a great kid and that he should stay. But we are taking a long time and other teams are already in the way. The longer we take, the more teams (will show an interest).
“And also he is going to get tired (with negotiations).”
In 2018, Athletic Bilbao broke their transfer record by paying £28 million to sign Martinez from their Basque rivals, Real Sociedad. It is noteworthy that Aston Villa is also rumored to be interested in Martinez’s teammate, Nico Williams.
Aston Villa provide injury update for midfielder Littlejohn
Aston Villa’s midfielder Ruesha Littlejohn has been injured in a game against West Ham United in the Barclays Women’s Super League, and is expected to be out of action for a few weeks.
She suffered the injury after being booked for a heavy challenge and left the field shortly after.
Littlejohn has a deep laceration to her knee, and the club has not provided an estimated recovery time, but such injuries usually take up to three months to heal, depending on their severity.
She is in her second season with Aston Villa and has made only four substitute appearances so far this season due to a previous foot injury.
Littlejohn will aim to recover quickly to increase her chances of being selected for the Republic of Ireland squad for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023.