Llorente won't be the last to leave Athletic Bilbao

Athletic Bilbao

Fernando Llorente has finally put pen to paper and agreed to join Juventus on a free transfer in June, ending a season full of off-field bickering and dispute that has seen the Spanish international spend most of his time on the bench.

This time last season, Athletic were the talk of football, they had progressed to the latter stages of the Europa League and were heavily praised for once again bringing the best out of a talented bunch of Basque youngsters.

However, a year on, today, the club is unrecognisable to that which beat Premier League giants Manchester United. Players have left - Javi Martinez to Bayern Munich, players are leaving - Fernando Llorente to Juventus and players will doubtless follow.

Whilst fans of the club were pleased to see the back of Javi Martinez, a player who had insisted he wanted a long term future at the club and then changed his mind, they were a little less eager for Llorente to leave.

And rightly so, the Spanish international has been superb during his eight years as a professional at the club but just when they think the departures are over, they may have more battles on their hands.

Oscar de Marcos is wanted by Manchester United along with Markel Susaeta, who is also attracting the interest of Liverpool, whilst arguably the biggest Basque talent of them all, Iker Muniain is now being courted by Pep Guardiola as he plans his time with Bayern Munich.

Sitting dangerously in 14th place, just four points above Osasuna in the relegation places and having scored only 24 goals all season, coach Marcelo Bielsa simply cannot afford to let the aforementioned trio leave aswell.

De Marcos has been superb, Susaeta a revelation and Muniain a godsend but looking for replacements is simply not going to be an easy task given that they still rely and stick to their Basque-only policy.

Therefore this season with the possibility of more players leaving and having started the season so poorly, could define the club's future for years to come.

Whilst the policy they strictly go by can be applauded, one has to worry now that Martinez, Llorente and most likely, more have left whether or not Athletic Club Bilbao will have to make an uncomfortable change.

image: © birasuegi

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