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Llorente tells Athletic Bilbao he wants to leave

Athletic Bilbao’s Spain striker Fernando Llorente has told the La Liga club he does not want to extend his contract beyond the end of the coming season, president Josu Urrutia said yesterday.

Urrutia admitted the 27-year-old’s decision, which means he will almost certainly leave before the transfer window closes at the end of this month, was a severe blow to the Basque club, who had been hoping to hold on to their prize asset for the 2012-13 La Liga campaign starting this weekend.

“He and his agent informed us that his decision was that he would not extend his contract,” Urrutia told a news conference.

“Essentially there was no economic reason and what had the most weight was choosing to take part in a different type of competition with more chances of success.”

Spanish media reported that Llorente was poised to join Italian champions Juventus.

The burly forward, known to adoring Bilbao fans as “the lion king” because of his thick mane of golden hair, came through Bilbao’s youth academy before making his first-team debut in January 2005.

He netted 17 goals in 32 league appearances for Bilbao last season and scored seven in 15 games in European competition as the Basque club reached the final of the Europa League before losing to La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid.

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