Athletic Bilbao's Ander Iturraspe has extended his current contract with the Spanish club until the summer of 2019.
The Spanish international, who has also represented the Basque national side on four occasions, is enjoying his 16th year with Les Leones and has since amassed 200 appearances for the San Mames outfit.
The 26-year-old has been linked with a move away from the club, with Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich reportedly eyeing up the midfielder last summer. However, a €45m release clause has been implemented with the player’s new deal, a €5m improvement on a previous contract signed in January 2013.
Now an integral part of the first team squad, the defensive minded midfielder has played 33 times this season. Scoring twice, he has also recorded 14 clean sheets in those matches. A knee injury sustained against Levante left the player sidelined for over a month, this was then followed by recurring muscle issues during recovery.
In a limited 23 league games this season, Iturraspe has won 73 aerial duels and 61 interceptions. This has only increased his chances of further international recognition, having made two appearances for Les Rojas against Bolivia and France respectively.
Iturraspe was included in Vicente Del Bosque’s 30-man provisional squad for last summer’s World Cup finals, but was unfortunate to not make the cut with the likes of Sergio Busquets and Javi Martinez chosen in his place.
Iturraspe came to prominence in 2011, taking part in 49 fixtures in a rather impressive campaign for his club. A disappointing 10th place finish in La Liga was preceded by Europa League and Copa Del Rey finals, the former being their first European final since 1977. Losing 3-0 to Atletico Madrid in Romania was followed by defeat to Barcelona with the same score line, but a reappearance in UEFA’s secondary competition was secured.
The club’s official website confirmed the deal on Monday morning, with a press conference expected in Bilbao tomorrow ahead of a possible tie with Elche on Sunday. The Liga BBVA clash is in doubt after a strike called by the players’ union against a new television rights law. However, a Spanish court will decide as early as Wednesday on the legality of the protest after the professional league filed a petition to declare the action illegal.
Ernesto Valverde’s men will be looking to avoid a third consecutive draw in the domestic league, following a goalless Basque derby and two tightly contested games with Atletico Madrid and Deportivo. Bilbao then travel to the Camp Nou at the end of May to take on Barcelona in the Copa Del Rey final.
Speaking to the press last week, Iturraspe stated: “Getting to a final gives you a lot of strength and everyone knows that the best way to reach a final is a winning dynamic. When you feel a winning team will leave the field with that mentality.
"Clearly you have to go to 110% because if we would have far fewer options. They have more quality than us but we have to try to grab them on the other side."