Barcelona coach Quique Setien admitted Arthur could be affected by rumours linking him with a move to Juventus.

Sky Sports reported on Tuesday that Juve had agreed an €80million deal with Barca, but must still convince the midfielder to join.

Arthur was substituted early in the second half as Barcelona edged Athletic Bilbao 1-0 in LaLiga.

Setien said the speculation surrounding the midfielder's future could be impacting the Brazil international's performances.

"If this is the case I'm sure it's affecting him, yes," he told a news conference.

"I'm very happy with what he's doing, he's an important player for us and we'll try to get the best out of him.

"Given how things are we need all of our players and we'll try and isolate ourselves from this situation and the media who are reporting on and talking about these rumours.

"We need him to be focused. It's true it is a difficult situation but we have to overcome it somehow."

Arthur has made 27 appearances this season for Barcelona, who moved three points clear of rivals Real Madrid atop the table.

Ivan Rakitic said he was "annoyed" it took him so long to open his goalscoring account this season after helping Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday.

The midfielder's 71st-minute winner helped Barca return to the top of the LaLiga table, sitting three points clear of rivals Real Madrid.

It was Rakitic's first goal of the campaign and the Croatian admitted to being frustrated by that record.

"We struggled a lot to get into the game, it wasn't easy, but I was very happy to score my first goal of the season," he said, via Marca.

"I want to dedicate my goal to my wife and my daughters who have put up with me so much in the last few months.

"It's very strange that I've taken so long to score. I'm annoyed with myself, although I'm happy to have helped the team."

Barcelona have collected 10 points from four games since returning from the coronavirus-enforced break, and they are yet to concede a goal.

Rakitic acknowledged his side, who visit Celta Vigo on Saturday, had again been pushed.

"It's very difficult to win LaLiga, that's why we say it's the best league in the world," he said.

"There are very even and tough games."

Quique Setien praised Ivan Rakitic after the midfielder scored the winner in Barcelona's 1-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday. 

Rakitic netted in the 71st minute to lift Barca back to the top of the table, three points clear of rivals Real Madrid. 

The Croatian's future has been talked about in recent months but Barcelona coach Setien hailed his impact after the midfielder came off the bench in the second half. 

"He came in in the second half for the Busi [Sergio Busquets] card. He has done it frankly well," he told Movistar. 

"He understands football very well. He has placed himself well, has stolen balls and has joined a definitive action. 

"I am very happy for him." 

Since returning from the coronavirus-enforced break, Barca have collected 10 points from four games and are yet to concede a goal. 

Setien was happier with his side's second-half display, praising substitutes Ansu Fati and Riqui Puig for their performances. 

"In the first half we were not precise with the ball. We had losses, it was difficult for us to recover the ball after loss," he said. 

"I have seen the second half calmer. The entrance of Ansu and Riqui has given us dynamism … they have given us a longer possession. 

"I am happy with the second half. And the first half we can improve." 

Barcelona's busy run of fixtures continues with a trip to Celta Vigo on Saturday.

Ivan Rakitic came to Barcelona's rescue as the substitute fired Quique Setien's side to a 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao. 

All eyes were on Lionel Messi, chasing his 700th career goal, but he had to settle for an assist to Rakitic's 71st-minute strike that lifted Barcelona back above Real Madrid. 

Amid Messi's pursuit of a slice of history, a drought had looked to be undermining Barcelona's LaLiga title bid until the late twist. 

After a goalless draw at Sevilla on Friday, Barcelona were far from their best again. 

The biggest impact Messi made until his assist for the goal was arguably the one he left on Yeray Alvarez's ankle in what was perhaps generously considered an innocent collision. 

He threatened to steal the headlines in the closing minutes when he darted in from the right flank, the ball on his left foot, and took aim for the far corner. 

It is a goal that Messi has scored so many times in his career, but this time the fierce shot flew wide of the left upright. Ansu Fati, meanwhile, hit the right post from close range in stoppage time. 

The chances were not all Barcelona's though, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen almost caught out in the opening moments of the game when Unai Lopez's snappy cross from a short corner on the left nearly arrowed into the far corner. 

Ter Stegen just got there in time, but the goalkeeper was struggling midway through the first half when Alvarez connected with Lopez's teasing free-kick. Ter Stegen and Barca were thankful the defender sent his header over the bar. 

After the break, Messi teed up Antoine Griezmann with a clever pass, but the French forward could not apply a suitable finish. 

Eventually the breakthrough came as Messi teased the ball through for the charging Rakitic to slam beyond Unai Simon. 

Luis Suarez suddenly looked energised and saw a thumping shot deflect over for a corner. The ineffective Griezmann had already made way, his drought now up to seven league games. 

Then came the moment when Messi should have completed another century of goals, but the landmark will have to wait. 

 

 

Barcelona boss Quique Setien understands why people would question whether VAR is being used appropriately as an intense debate in LaLiga's title race continues.

Top spot slipped from Barca's grasp last week as they were held to a goalless draw at Sevilla while Real Madrid earned a 2-1 away win over Real Sociedad.

Frustrated defender Gerard Pique said it would be "very difficult" for Barca to retain the title, expressing his belief that "it's going to be difficult for Madrid to lose points" having seen what has happened in the games since the restart.

Those comments, made after the Sevilla game on Friday, were regarded by some as a reference to refereeing decisions Madrid received in their favour during wins over Eibar and Valencia.

And the issue came to the fore again when Catalan media were unhappy VAR did not rule out a goal from Karim Benzema against Sociedad, while Adnan Januzaj had a goal disallowed for the hosts.

Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane hit out at constant talk about officials and insisted his team were deserving winners on Sunday, but Setien can understand the furore.

"There are things that we cannot control and that do not depend on us," said Setien.

"Regarding [the Madrid] game, everyone has seen how it has been and everyone will make the assessments that are appropriate

"Pique, not now but always, has always seemed a very intelligent person.

"I do not speculate [about VAR or Pique's words]. I hear a series of words and the frustration of having lost two points pushes you to say that LaLiga is going to be difficult. 

"In moments of frustration one may not have refined comments. Regarding the VAR, it is a tool that can undoubtedly make us better. 

"You have to use it because it gives us a clearer view of reality when you have to make quick decisions. The good thing is to be able to see them with different angles and with vision. 

"It is understandable that we think about why some actions are reviewed and others not, in some matches yes and others no. And one may think that it is not being used well.

"What seems clear is, there is always controversy and there will always be these problems that are inherent in football."

Madrid are top due to their superior head-to-head record and eight matches remain ahead of Barca's home clash with Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday. 

Setien added: "Athletic are a tough, difficult team and they defend well. The games we have played against them have not been easy."

Barcelona boss Quique Setien does not expect the injured Frenkie de Jong to miss the remainder of the LaLiga season.

Midfielder De Jong has a calf injury and will not be involved when the Catalans host Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday.

There have been suggestions the Netherlands international is likely to miss the rest of the league season, as Barca attempt to defend their title from Real Madrid over the final eight matches.

Setien, though, expects De Jong to recover sooner rather than later.

When asked if De Jong could miss the rest of 2019-20, he told reporters on Monday: "We hope that won't be the case. He has a small injury in the area of his calf and we'll see how he progresses. But I'm sure he'll be able to play a few games.

"He's a complete player because he gives us a lot of things when we have the ball, but he's also physical and covers a lot of space. He's young, he has dynamism, enthusiasm and quality. He's learning many things we've been trying to improve.

"It's true that he's an important loss and he could help us a lot. We're a little upset that he's not there, but these are things you have to adapt to. I still have confidence in the people who are going to play in his position."

Barca, who will also be without Sergi Roberto against Athletic, lost their place at the top of the table on Sunday as Real Madrid beat Real Sociedad 2-1 to take advantage of the champions' draw with Sevilla.

Although they are behind Madrid by virtue of their head-to-head record this season, meaning the title race is no longer in their hands, Setien says his Barca players have trained positively in recent days.

"We've trained very well. There's a bit of residual fatigue but we're going to try to keep up the excitement and expectations because we're convinced we can win the title and we're going to try to improve the footballing aspects we have to control," he said.

Setien included Jorge Cuenca and Dani Morer from the B team in his 24-man squad, but he does not necessarily expect either to play.

However, he says Samuel Umtiti has a chance of forcing his way back into the first-team picture after returning from suspension.

"As they gave us the option of taking 23 players, it's difficult for Cuenca to play, but we can't include players who haven't passed the [COVID-19] tests," he said.

"We'll see tomorrow because one of the two [Cuenca and Morer] will be left out. But they train with us every day and they're here.

"If we decided he [Umtiti] has to play, he would play. He's getting better and better and this is strictly a subject for me. These are football issues.

"It's true he's better but he was injured for a while and he hasn't been at the level of others. He's much better now and has his chances to play, like everyone else."

Setien added that Ousmane Dembele is progressing well in his recovery from a thigh injury but that his return to group training "will have to wait".

Barcelona confirmed they have detected an issue in the soleus muscle in Frenkie de Jong's calf after missing the draw with Sevilla.

The Netherlands international had to miss Friday's trip to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, where Barca were frustrated in a goalless stalemate.

It was confirmed a day earlier that De Jong had been ruled out through injury, though the club did not reveal what the issue was.

Following further medical tests, Barca were able to determine the former Ajax talent is suffering with a problem in his soleus muscle in the right calf.

However, the club have not commented on how long he could be out for, saying the "evolution of the injury will condition the player's availability."

De Jong is in his first season at Camp Nou and has made 38 appearances across all competitions.

Barca are next in action at home to Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday, but by then they could have surrendered their place atop of LaLiga.

Friday's draw in Seville leaves them just three points ahead of Real Madrid, who have a game in hand.

Should Los Blancos win that match – away to Real Sociedad on Sunday – they will go top of the league due to their superior head-to-head record against Barca.

Diego Simeone challenged his Atletico Madrid players to treat every remaining LaLiga match like a final after a 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao hindered their top-four hopes.

Throughout his eight-and-a-half-year tenure, Simeone has expanded Spain's big two to a big three – most notably when Atleti pipped Barcelona and Real Madrid to the title in 2013-14.

However, they lie sixth in the standings after Saturday's stalemate at San Mames, with a 13th top-flight draw this season setting an unwanted club record.

In their previous competitive match before the coronavirus shutdown, Atletico sensationally dumped holders Liverpool out of the Champions League to reach the quarter-finals.

However, their participation in next season's competition is far from assured and fourth-placed Real Sociedad could open up a three-point advantage when they host Osasuna later on Sunday.

"The aim for the two teams was to always try to win, we started well in the first 10 minutes, then they positioned themselves better and they won the second ball and they did not let us attack," Simeone told reporters, after watching Diego Costa find a quickfire response to Iker Muniain's opener.

"The goal came, the reaction, after a very well-constructed play.

"In the second half we were closer to that victory. Santiago Arias' chance was the clearest. He could have allow us to take the victory in a stadium where you always have to work to win.

"We have one final left in each match."

Simeone picked two-goal Anfield hero Marcos Llorente in an advanced role behind Costa, leaving striker Alvaro Morata on the bench until the 63rd minute.

Nevertheless, the Atleti boss would not rule out pairing them as a front two in future, with a Wednesday trip to Osasuna in LaLiga on the agenda.

"Seeing what I see and knowing the squad, I interpreted this situation to be like this today," he said.

"Over time, they will be able to coexist. We understood that Marcos could give us some incision like he did, with some sprints, some passes and the dirty work."

Koke believes Atletico Madrid's 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao has done damage to their Champions League qualification prospects.

Diego Costa's 39th-minute goal on the end of a clever Koke pass ensured the first-half advantage Iker Muniain's splendid strike granted Athletic was short-lived.

However, Atleti were unable to affect a full turnaround, with substitute Santiago Arias going closest to a winner when he drew a point-blank save from Unai Simon 10 minutes from time.

It means Los Colcheneros have now won only one of their past 11 away matches in LaLiga, with Sunday's behind-closed-doors encounter at San Mames their 13th draw of the campaign – setting an unwanted club record.

"I believe it was a very strength-based game. It was a tough situation to be in," Koke told LaLiga TV, after the draw moved sixth-placed Atleti level on points with Getafe and Real Sociedad, the latter of whom take on Osasuna in Sunday's late kick-off.

"We didn't take our chances. We have to suffer and accept the draw. We want to be in the Champions League and we need to get hold of the points.

"It's difficult from this position that we're in.

"They were better placed than us all over the pitch. We managed to change things after the first goal and a couple of minutes after found the equaliser.

"Santi had the chance at the end to get us the win."

Ex-Atleti forward Raul Garcia impressed for the hosts alongside the influential Muniain and rued his team-mates switching off as Costa hit back.

"We knew it was going to be a very difficult game," he told LaLiga TV. "There was a bit of speculation about how the teams were going to come back to the league action but we both went out to win the game.

"Once you've just scored you normally relax a little bit and that's what happened to us today.

"But we have to take the positives. We manged to compete against one of the best teams in the league and unfortunately we couldn't get three points."

Copa del Rey finalists Athletic lie 10th, five points behind Valencia in seventh, which is likely to be the last Europa League qualifying spot should they lose to rivals Sociedad in the showpiece.

Atletico Madrid set a new club record for draws in a single LaLiga season on Sunday, as they were held by Athletic Bilbao on their return to action.

Playing for the first time since football in Spain was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, Diego Simeone's side had to settle for a point on the road at San Mames.

Iker Muniain's delightful 37th-minute goal opened the scoring, though Atletico were not behind for long.

Just 129 seconds later, Diego Costa claimed his third goal of the season - and first since October - to bring the visitors level, though the 1-1 result does little to boost Atleti's hopes of a top-four finish.

They sit sixth in the table having drawn 13 of their 28 league games in 2019-20, already the most recorded in a solitary season in the club's history.

Simeone will hope for a more positive outcome when his Champions League quarter-finalists travel to Osasuna on Wednesday. 

Atletico Madrid were unable to enhance their top-four prospects with victory on their return to LaLiga, playing out a 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao.

Iker Muniain's delightful 37th-minute opener was cancelled out 129 seconds later by Diego Costa, who claimed his third goal of the season and first since October.

The striker paid tribute in his celebration to Atletico's women's team midfielder Virginia Torrecilla, who underwent successful surgery to have a brain tumour removed last month. Costa showed a shirt bearing her name.

Substitute Santiago Arias came closest to snatching all the points for Los Colchoneros, who sit sixth in the table on goal difference.

Marcos Llorente opened up Athletic with a fine diagonal throughball in the 12th minute, sending Yannick Carrasco scampering through to shoot just wide across goalkeeper Unai Simon, who briefly lost his footing.

Jan Oblak was uncharacteristically wobbly when he took two attempts to grasp Inaki Williams' 25th-minute header but the Slovenia international displayed his brilliant best when he kept out Yeray's glancing attempt at full stretch.

Oblak had no chance when Muniain dispatched a clever finish with the outside of his right boot into the bottom right corner.

Atletico sprung immediately from their mid-half slumber – Koke's cute pass leaving Costa to slide a finish beyond Simon.

That seemed to inspire a role reversal during the early stages of the second half, with Atletico enjoying plenty of attacking territory but Athletic keeping their visitors honest on the break as Yuri Berchiche crashed an effort into the side-netting.

Diego Simeone's anguish in the dugout was clear when Arias arrived unmarked at the back post 10 minutes from time, drawing a brilliant point-blank save from Simon.

What does it mean? Atletico away form still a worry

Simeone's side might have memorably prevailed at one of European football's great fortresses in their previous competitive match, but that victory at Anfield cannot obscure the fact that they have now won just one of their past 11 away games in LaLiga. They are level on points with Real Sociedad and Getafe in fourth and fifth respectively and such diminishing returns on the road are why their battle for Champions League football will probably go down to the wire.

Muniain and Garcia roll back the years

Lockdown has done nothing for anyone's conception of time and dates, but when Athletic's creative forwards took control of the first half, it was easy to imagine being somewhere during the early stages of the previous decade. Muniain – still only 27 – was irresistible at times, evoking memories of when he was a wonderkid and Spanish football's next superstar in waiting. Playing against the club he starred for in their 2013-14 title win, Raul Garcia proved a superb foil for the number 10.

Llorente ill-suited to number 10 duties

Marcos Llorente's two-goal heroics against Liverpool undoubtedly played a part in Simeone's decision to start him in an advanced role behind Costa. Although the Spain international's play was typically neat and he did not lack for work rate, the absence of his creative qualities from deep as the likes of Thomas Lemar and Alvaro Morata awaited second-half introductions was perplexing.

What's next?

Atletico are on the road again at Osasuna on Wednesday, when Athletic travel to struggling Eibar.

Atletico Madrid are not currently capable of playing with Alvaro Morata and Diego Costa in attack, according to Diego Simeone.

Costa only returned from three months out with a back injury shortly before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, while Morata has scored 12 goals in 32 appearances this term. They have started together five times in all competitions in 2019-20.

Simeone will be unable to select the suspended Joao Felix when Atletico play their first game in over three months against Athletic Bilbao in LaLiga on Sunday.

The head coach has looked at using midfielder Marcos Llorente, who scored twice when Atleti eliminated Liverpool from the Champions League at Anfield before the coronavirus stoppage, as an attacker in a bid to give his team greater balance.

"We manage different situations and Marcos gives us important alternatives, where we can play with three in the middle and [Yannick] Carrasco as striker," said Simeone on Saturday.

"I think that Marcos has a very good physical condition and good finishing from behind the striker. He already showed it when some people thought taking out Costa for him at Anfield was a defensive change and he was key.

"On the possibility of putting Costa and Morata together, it is not the same as in pre-season. Now I cannot take advantage of both together because I do not have a team prepared to sustain the two forwards.

"I prefer to harness the power that each one has separately until at some point they can play together. That's why I explain why Alvaro and Costa do not play when Alvaro is available."

Simeone's assistant German Burgos will leave Atleti at the end of the season to pursue a career as a head coach.

"I have absolute gratitude to German, he is essential. I am grateful for the time German has given me and we have shared professionally and personally," said Simeone.

"It's a very important decision and he will face many challenges that will motivate him.

"Some of the players have already commented on what German has given us and when he finishes, we wish him the best."

Kieran Trippier is excited to resume the 2019-20 LaLiga season following the coronavirus pandemic, with the full-back also fully fit again following surgery on an injury that plagued him even before leaving Tottenham last year.

Spanish football is due to resume next week after a three-month hiatus, which came at a frustrating time for Trippier, given he had just returned to action following a lay-off.

Trippier had surgery on a groin issue in January and it was a problem he recently revealed caused him significant stress during his final season at Tottenham, criticising the club for putting off the operation.

Although he returned to action a few weeks before LaLiga was suspended, Trippier was still receiving treatment to aid his recovery, but that had to stop once Spain went into lockdown.

The England international acknowledged it was a struggle to retain fitness during the lockdown, but he and Atletico are excited to get going again, with Los Colchoneros set to resume their campaign away to Athletic Bilbao on June 14.

"For me personally, after my surgery, I was used to getting treatment every single day but obviously I couldn't get that at home," he said.

"It was difficult but always you find a way to train, keep yourself in the best possible shape so when you return, you're ready to start the competition again.

"I feel very good to be back. It was very difficult not seeing team-mates, staff, and training every single day. But everybody understands the circumstances of the time.

"Obviously everyone's excited. The team is just looking forward to getting ready for the game against Athletic and it's important that we start the season off again strongly and try to win as many games as we can from now until the end of the season."

The rest of the season will be played behind closed doors and Trippier is aware of how it feels to play in an empty stadium, though he believes Atletico will still feel the love from supporters watching in their own homes.

"I've played in some games where there have been no supporters before and it's different," he added.

"Obviously you want the fans there supporting you every single game, but everybody understands the circumstances at the moment and it's important that everybody is safe.

"We'll always try to find a way to win and the fans are always there watching on TV, so we have the full support from them back home."

Atletico are sixth in LaLiga heading into the final 11 matches of the season, however third-placed Sevilla are just two points better off than Diego Simeone's men.

"When you play the first match in old San Mames, you can say that you can die, it's crazy."

Born in Eibar – around a 50km journey to Bilbao in the Basque Country – Markel Susaeta epitomised what it meant to play for Athletic Bilbao.

Susaeta spent the majority of his career at Athletic, where he made 507 appearances – only four players in the history of the club have managed more, Jose Angel Iribar (614), Jose Francisco Rojo (541), Joseba Etxeberria (514) and Andoni Iraola (510).

The Spanish winger even wore the captain's armband and won the Supercopa de Espana in 2015 before departing his beloved Athletic in 2019, having first donned the iconic red and white stripes in 2007.

Susaeta made his goalscoring senior debut away to Barcelona 13 years ago and stepped out onto Sam Mames for the first time a fortnight later, scoring a free-kick in a 1-1 draw with Real Zaragoza.

"When you play the first match, you are in heaven. You never thought you could play in that stadium and the supporters are amazing – always helping the team," Susaeta told Stats Perform News.

Athletic are a team who continue to play by their own rules. The Basque-only policy has captivated football and the sporting world, with Los Leones only picking players from one region since 1912.

Despite football's transformation by globalisation, Athletic remain defiant to their roots – only those born or raised in the Basque Country, which is made up of four provinces in north-east Spain and three in south-west France, eligible to represent the club. Rivals Real Sociedad operated a similar policy until 1989.

While it may come across as a disadvantage, limiting Athletic in the transfer market, the Spanish team have never been relegated from LaLiga while adhering to the famed policy. They have lost stars over the years, but the region continues to be a breeding ground for talent.

"For the kids of Basque Country, Real Sociedad, Athletic, many, many kids… I think more kids want to play for Athletic Bilbao," Susaeta said. "When you go to the first division, all the players, it's difficult to keep all the players at Athletic because all the players aren't the same, different things for their future. Kepa [Arrizabalaga] went to Chelsea, [Ander] Herrera went to Manchester United, [Fernando] Llorente went to Juventus, Javi Martinez Bayern Munich.

"Many players they went to other big clubs but a lot of players, more than the players that go, they stay at Athletic. For that reason, Athletic in the last 12-13 years, play very good football, a very good level. One year we played in the Champions League, we won one Supercopa, we played in three, four finals for the Copa del Rey. It's very difficult but Athletic always does things well."

"Athletic are the most special team in the world for me, what can I say? The philosophy that the people that aren't from Basque Country, they love Athletic's philosophy because it's different to other teams from the world," Susaeta added. "The kids love Athletic, they only like Athletic Bilbao. They don't like Barcelona, Madrid, they like Athletic Bilbao. This love is different than the other clubs."

Susaeta is an example of Athletic's production line, which is now headlined by the likes of young stars Inaki Williams and Unai Nunez. The 32-year-old Susaeta came through the ranks, spending one season with farm team Basconia and another with the B team before being thrust into the first-team picture in 2007.

The one-time Spain international was a vital member of Athletic's stunning Supercopa de Espana triumph under former boss Ernesto Valverde five years ago – a 5-1 two-legged rout of Barca ending a 31-year wait for silverware.

A three-time Copa del Rey finalist, Susaeta also experienced Athletic's unforgettable journey to the 2012 Europa League final, with Marcelo Bielsa at the helm.

"With Marcelo, you play a very intense football. He always wants to play the ball, for example, he likes man-marking. It's a little bit crazy to keep the whole season with man-marking. We spent two years with him but with Marcelo, it was the best football I ever played," Susaeta said as he compared the two coaches.

"With Valverde, we played in the Champions League. It's more difficult because after Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid, it's a very crazy season. With Valverde, you're more regular in defending and attacking, all the team go together. It's different. But the best football, the more attractive football that I ever played was with Bielsa."

Athletic lost the all-Spanish Europa League decider in 2012, beaten 3-0 by Atletico Madrid in Bucharest. While Bielsa's men left Arena Nationala emptyhanded, their campaign was a memorable one, having outclassed Alex Ferguson's Manchester United in the last 16 – a shock 3-2 victory at Old Trafford the highlight.

It was a famous win for Athletic, who came from behind to record a first win on English soil and Susaeta said: "It's the one of the most important matches in my life. We played at Old Trafford and we played amazing football. That morning, with Bielsa, we trained for two hours, doing sprints. It was crazy.

"In the evening, we won playing amazing football. It was a very good memories because that year we won against very good European clubs but in the final we were tired, I don't know what happened but we couldn't win the final."

Susaeta was also fortunate to play in both the old San Mames and new San Mames, which opened in 2013.

"In the old San Mames, I played my first match, in that stadium, we played very good football with Bielsa – a crazy year with two finals," he added. "In the other San Mames, we played in the Champions League. In the two stadiums, I have very good memories. They are two very special stadiums."

Susaeta now finds himself playing for Melbourne City in Australia after a difficult spell with Japanese giants Gamba Osaka.

A January arrival, Susaeta had scored two goals and set up another for City – part of the City Football Group (CFG) – before the season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Asked about a possible Athletic return after his unceremonious exit last year, Susaeta replied: "I don't want to see the future, I want to live the present. I'm very happy in Melbourne and Australia, it's a very good country and city. I'm very happy with my club and team-mates. My family is happy here and we want to stay here longer. Now it's very crazy the situation but I hope we can train again in a few weeks and finish the season in a few months.

"Japan was very difficult for me and my family because many things are different. Here we feel very good, we feel happy. My kids are happy in childcare. Here everything is perfect. I'm very happy in the football. For me, it's perfect. I'm very happy here and I hope I can stay here more years."

Gaizka Garitano has seen his Athletic Bilbao contract extended by another season after guiding the Basque club to the Copa del Rey final.

Garitano – previously Athletic's reserve coach – was appointed until the end of the 2018-19 campaign when Eduardo Berizzo was sacked with the team in relegation trouble after 14 matches.

The former Real Sociedad midfielder took Athletic up the table and into European contention to earn the opportunity to continue in the role for 2019-20.

And another impressive outing has seen Garitano secure a further 12-month extension.

Athletic endured a three-month winless run earlier this term but were 10th in LaLiga when the season was suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Crucially, Garitano's side had also reached a mouthwatering all-Basque Copa decider against rivals Real Sociedad.

"I am very happy for the confidence shown in me by the club," the coach said.

"This is the team that I have followed since childhood, from my heart. Running it is a joy and a responsibility.

"The experience lived this year in the Copa is magnificent and we have the opportunity to win a title. You have to stick with the positive things and try to improve."

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