Josu Urrutia has made it clear that Athletic Bilbao could yet keep Aymeric Laporte this summer, despite heavy speculation about the defender’s future.
Athletic ended the season fifth in La Liga thanks to Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Sevilla in their final match of the campaign, but much of Urrutia’s post-match interview focused on where Laporte would ply his trade next term, amidst reports Manchester City were ready to activate the Frenchman’s €50m buyout clause.
“I won’t rule out Laporte staying, neither will I rule out the others staying,” the President said after the game.
“I’m aware of the rumours, but there’s nothing official. It’s normal for people to look at our players because they’re of a very high standard.
“Still, [the Press] should leave us alone a little and let us follow our line [of work].
“The most important thing at the club, beyond the players, is the collective.
“[Laporte’s buyout clause] is something that we’ve set. We’re not a selling club and it asks a lot of us to develop our players.
“We had an excellent season. We won a trophy against the League champions and perhaps the best team in the world.
“Against a team who will play in two finals [Sevilla], we lost to them on penalties [in the Europa League quarter-finals], plus we finished [La Liga] in fifth place. The general tone of the team has been very good.
“[Coach Ernesto] Valverde played with us for six years, and he only managed to qualify for Europe once under [Jupp] Heynckes in 1994.
“Now we’re getting used to [qualifying for Europe]. We must appreciate what the team did this season.
“[Finishing fifth] was our objective and we succeeded in meeting it.
“We had a special night [on Saturday], and it was further demonstration of how special our club is.
“[Retiring] Carlos [Gurpegi] has nothing to envy [after a lack of silverware in his career].
“Playing for Athletic is very special and there are few things that we envy of other teams.
“We must continue to astound our fans because this club was designed to astound.
“[Valverde] is a great Coach. After seeing what he’s done in these three years, he’s been a great success.”