Osasuna released a statement on Friday announcing that the Pamplona-based club have broken relations with Athletic Bilbao. This extreme step comes after a series of disagreements with Athletic, who vigorously deny the accusations.
Jesús Areso signing has aggravated Osasuna
The tipping point in relations has been Athletic’s signing of Osasuna youngster Jesús Areso, a promising right-back who has been recognised by Spain at youth level. Areso will now form part of the Bilbao Athletic squad managed by Gaizka Garitano.
Osasuna are treating Athletic’s approach to the transfer as an ‘abuse’, a line of argument that they presented on their website:
“[Osasuna] Feel profoundly hurt by the behaviour of the Basque club, who have sought to abuse their position of financial strength to seduce a footballer who, since several days ago, has publically shown his excitement and gratitude to La Rojilla for giving him the opportunity to take part in pre-season with the first team.”
The club also drew attention to the “sarcastic manner” in which Athletic have treated their recent requests for information about players, and friendly matches. Osasuna see this as a lack of respect.
Berenguer negotiations created cracks in relationship
In the following paragraph of their statement, the Navarrese team present the transfer of Areso as a manoevre intended to “demonstrate their [Athletic's] strength in the context of La Rojilla’s refusal to sell Álex Berenguer for a price lower than his release clause.”
The signing of Jesús Areso has exposed the cracks in the relationship between the two clubs that were formed by negotiations over Álex Berenguer. Athletic have been attempted to secure the winger’s signature for €4m, which is significantly less than his €9m release clause. Understandably, Osasuna are unwilling to part with a talented player for such a low price.
Napoli are interested in Berenguer. Talks are ongoing and an offer €6m plus incentives is expected to arrive at El Sadar.
To conclude, Osasuna stated that they have decided to cut relations with Athletic. That would, in theory, put an end to conversations between the two clubs, and of course, prevent transfers between the two clubs from taking place. Yet Osasuna vice-president Alfonso Ramírez was equivocal when subsequently asked about how Berenguer’s transfer could develop: “If Athletic come in with €7m, and it was the best offer, of course we would have to analyse it as the best offer."
Athletic deny accusations
For their part, Athletic have vigorously denied the allegations: “Athletic Club expressly rejects the accusations, which are absolutely untrue, about supposed abuses of power and sarcasm."
The Basque club delivered a point-by-point summary of how they carried out the transfer of Jesús Areso.