Athletic Bilbao are fairly unique within global football. The club uses only players from the Basque region of northern Spain/southern France and yet has consistently been one of Spain’s best clubs for more than a century.
They have produced numerous talented players over the years and are very strict when it comes to selling them, too.
In recent years, elite clubs buying Bilbao players have had little choice but to trigger full buyout clauses in order to get a deal done, with loyalty equally ensuring that their players never kick up a fuss and force the club to lower the price so they can leave.
Here’s a look at the four biggest Bilbao stars to have their buyout clauses triggered…
4. Ander Herrera – €36m
Joined Manchester United, June 2014
Manchester United originally tried to buy Ander Herrera in the summer of 2013 after he had been part of a Bilbao team that dumped them out of the Europa League two seasons earlier.
That initial attempt eventually descended into a farce when three Spanish lawyers claiming to be working on behalf of United tried to broker a deal. It later became apparent the Old Trafford club had no knowledge of these lawyers and hadn’t mobilised the law firm they usually use in Spain because they hadn’t reached an agreement with Bilbao.
A year later, United triggered Herrera’s buyout clause and the deal was done very quickly.
3. Javi Martinez – €40m
Joined Bayern Munich, August 2012
A teammate of Herrera in Bilbao’s 2011/12 Europa League run, Javi Martinez left the Basque club for big money when Bayern Munich triggered his €40m buyout clause.
That was an enormous figure at the time and represented a huge profit for Bilbao as the club had signed the defensive minded midfielder for only €6m from Osasuna six years earlier.
Martinez has won the Bundesliga title every year since he’s been in Germany, as well as also collecting a Champions League winner’s medal in his debut season.
2. Aymeric Laporte – €65m
Joined Manchester City, January 2018
Bilbao raised the buyout clause in the contract of French defender Aymeric Laporte on several occasions, with suitors watching it jump to €27.5m in 2013, €50m in 2015 and eventually as much as €65m in 2016.
Keen for defensive reinforcement with a longer term vision in mind, Manchester City opted to pay the buyout clause to release Laporte in January of last season.
The Frenchman struggled to nail down a permanent role in his maiden half season, but he looks as though he could become a regular in 2018/19.
1. Kepa Arrizabalaga – €80m
Joined Chelsea, August 2018
Kepa Arrizabalaga is rated as one of the top emerging goalkeepers in Europe and was of serious interest to Real Madrid before he signed his last Bilbao contract, but it was desperation that has seen Chelsea make him the most expensive in history.
The €80m fee surpasses the €75m that Liverpool paid Roma for Alisson Becker only last month, putting enormous pressure on Kepa immediatelely.
The 23-year-old was favoured by the Spanish public to take over from David de Gea as the national team number one during the World Cup.