Aritz Aduriz does not see his retirement nor Athletic Bilbao's Copa del Rey final with Real Sociedad as important amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The veteran striker, who has scored 172 goals in over 400 appearances for Athletic, announced his intention to retire at the end of this season back in August.

His final season as a player is set to be marked by an all-Basque Copa del Rey final between Athletic and La Real.

Originally scheduled to take place on April 18 in Seville, the Copa showpiece - along with the vast majority of sport around the world - has been put on hold.

It is not clear when the final will be played. However, Aduriz accepts even an occasion as momentous as the clash with La Real has little significance amid a crisis that has killed over 12,000 people in Spain.

"This coronavirus crisis is forcing us to think twice and consider what matters," Aduriz told Athletic's official website. "And now my retirement, or football in general, or if we will play [the Copa del Rey final] or not doesn't matter.

"I think there are many other more important things to stop and solve. I'm sure with everyone's help together, with each of us playing our role, we will get ahead of it. That's what I'm focused on at this moment and that's the most important thing."

Aduriz was born in San Sebastian, where Real Sociedad hail from, but he expects a respectful reception from their fans if and when the final goes ahead.

He added: "Maybe all of us are keeping in mind the Copa del Rey final, but we're prioritising other things now.

"We're all going through a tough time where many people are struggling a lot and even passing away…so, the final of the Copa has its importance, but maybe not that much now.

"There are other things we need to solve together, and if the day [of the final] finally comes, I'm Donostiarra [people originally from San Sebastian]. I've always felt very comfortable in Donostia [the city's Basque name] and that won't change whatever happens in any football game. I'm sure they will treat me in the same way, no doubt."

Asked about recognition for his achievements from Athletic fans, Aduriz replied: "If we've learned something from this pandemic or virus that we're struggling with, it's that we should think twice about what is important.

"I sincerely believe the people who really deserve a statue and recognition are clear nowadays, and it's not me or any football player.

"I would build a statue to those who are battling every day at the very front line against the virus in all the hospitals. They're showing us what really matters.

"We have to realise what's important and what isn't. And this is probably showing us that football isn't important enough for this kind of recognition."

The coronavirus crisis continues to challenge decision-makers in football's corridors of power and could soon leave some of the game's biggest clubs facing contract conundrums.

Manchester United, Milan and Paris Saint-Germain are among the major European outfits who are due to farewell high-profile players when free agency comes into force on June 30.

Domestic leagues across the world appear increasingly likely to run beyond that deadline, meaning sides up and down the divisions could be forced to renegotiate deals beyond the typical expiry date.

It remains to be seen how governing bodies will approach the unfamiliar territory but Edinson Cavani, Mario Gotze and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be watching closely like dozens more across Europe's top five leagues.

These are the stars and solid supporting cast members whose contract situations are worth monitoring in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

LaLiga

Athletic Bilbao: Aritz Aduriz (retiring), Benat, Mikel San Jose
Atletico Madrid: Antonio Adan
Espanyol: Ander Iturraspe
Granada: Roberto Soldado
Real Valladolid: Hatem Ben Arfa
Sevilla: Ever Banega (joining Al Shabab at end of contract), Nolito
Valencia: Ezequiel Garay
Villarreal: Santi Cazorla 

Premier League

Bournemouth: Ryan Fraser
Burnley: Joe Hart
Chelsea: Olivier Giroud, Pedro, Willian
Liverpool: Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne
Manchester City: David Silva (confirmed he will leave at end of contract)
Manchester United: Nemanja Matic, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Odion Ighalo (loan ends)
Newcastle United: Matty Longstaff
Tottenham: Jan Vertonghen, Japhet Tanganga

Serie A

Atalanta: Jose Luis Palomino
Hellas Verona: Fabio Borini
Inter: Ashley Young
Juventus: Gianluigi Buffon
Milan: Lucas Biglia, Giacomo Bonaventura, Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Napoli: Jose Callejon, Dries Mertens

Bundesliga

Bayer Leverkusen: Charles Aranguiz
Borussia Dortmund: Mario Gotze, Lukasz Piszczek
Hertha Berlin: Salomon Kalou
Schalke: Benjamin Stambouli
Wolfsburg: Robin Knoche

Ligue 1

Lille: Loic Remy
Monaco: Jemerson
Nice: Walter Benitez, Arnaud Lusamba
Paris Saint-Germain: Edinson Cavani, Thomas Meunier, Tanguy Kouassi, Layvin Kurzawa, Thiago Silva

The Copa del Rey final between Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao has been postponed due to coronavirus pandemic, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has confirmed.

Basque sides Sociedad and Athletic were due to play for the trophy in Seville on April 18 but the match has been pushed back by the RFEF, Stats Perform understands

According to reports in the Spanish media, the game is set to be rescheduled for May 30.

At least the next two matchdays in Spain's top two tiers will be played behind closed doors due to the proliferation of COVID-19, though the national footballers' union has requested matches be suspended.

The RFEF also announced on Wednesday that all non-professional men's and women's football and futsal matches have been postponed for two weeks.

According to the World Health Organisation, Spain has seen 1,639 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 36 deaths.

Athletic Bilbao coach Gaizka Garitano was delighted for the Basque Country after booking a spot in the Copa del Rey final against Real Sociedad.

Despite a 2-1 loss to Granada on Thursday, Athletic reached the final on the away goals rule after a 2-2 aggregate draw.

It means they will face Sociedad on April 18 in the first Basque derby Copa del Rey decider.

Garitano was thrilled by his team's progression, which came thanks to Yuri Berchiche's 81st-minute goal.

"Joy to go to a final. Congratulations to Real because they have managed to reach the final," he said, via AS.

"Happy for a Basque final, for Basque football."

Garitano added: "The team has a lot of merit … it gets out of where it doesn't exist, it doesn't lower its head in the worst situations. Happy for the people of Bilbao, many people are happy what has happened."

After Athletic won the first leg 1-0, goals from Carlos Fernandez and German Sanchez Barahona had Granada on track before Berchiche's strike.

With Athletic (10th) behind Real Sociedad (sixth) in LaLiga, Garitano feels his side's rivals have the edge.

"Right now they are superior, but we are not easy to beat," he said.

"They have great players and they are very good."

Athletic Bilbao set up a mouthwatering Basque derby against Real Sociedad in the Copa del Rey final as Yuri Berchiche's late strike saw them progress on the away-goals rule after a 2-1 defeat to Granada.

Having headed into Thursday's clash leading in the tie thanks to Iker Muniain's goal in the first leg, Bilbao looked down and out after Granada turned the contest around in the second half.

With Carlos Fernandez breaking the deadlock shortly after the interval, German Sanchez's towering header seemed to have secured Granada's first appearance in a Copa del Rey final since the 1958-59 season.

Yet it was 23-time Copa winners Bilbao who prevailed – Berchiche keeping his cool from close range to secure a 2-2 aggregate draw but, most importantly, a vital away goal, to book his side's place in the final on April 18.

Imanol Alguacil hopes Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao can join Real Sociedad in the Copa del Rey final after his side's 3-1 aggregate defeat of Mirandes.

La Real held a 2-1 lead from the first leg at home, and captain Mikel Oyarzabal's first-half penalty was enough for an away victory and a place in the final.

It will be Sociedad's first Copa final in 32 years, yet head coach Imanol acknowledges it would be even more special if Athletic can also progress.

Athletic visit Granada in their second leg on Thursday after winning the home clash 1-0.

Imanol said: "Of course, I want Athletic because it would be very nice for the Basque Country.

"I also like Diego [Martinez]'s Granada for what they are doing in LaLiga, but it would be very nice to have a Basque final."

Victory at Mirandes was La Real's sixth in succession across all competitions, but Imanol is confident there is more to come, with a trip to Barcelona up next in LaLiga.

"It is very difficult to put into words how one feels after reaching a final after so many years," Imanol said. "We have made a great cup campaign, winning all the matches. I want to thank everyone who has supported us.

"The most important thing now is the final. Our responsibility is to win that final and I will not rest easy. But we can win it and do something important in LaLiga.

"This is the year and we have created this opportunity. The best is still yet to come."

Lautaro Martinez is a wanted man and his future could become clearer.

The Inter star has dazzled in Italy this season, alongside team-mate Romelu Lukaku.

And Barcelona are reportedly keen to tie up a deal for the Argentina international.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA TABLE MARTINEZ BID

Barcelona have made their first offer to Inter for star forward Lautaro Martinez, according to FCInterNews.it.

Martinez has reportedly been identified as a long-term replacement for Barca veteran Luis Suarez, while the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester City and Manchester United are interested.

According to the report, LaLiga champions Barca have tabled a €70m bid for Martinez plus two players – Arturo Vidal and Nelson Semedo.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Telegraph says United are favourites to sign Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho at the end of the season. Liverpool and Chelsea have also been linked with moves for the 19-year-old.

Athletic Bilbao are interested in Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain, reports Marca. Bilbao have a Basque-only transfer policy, however, Argentina international Higuain qualifies due to the Basque-French origin of his grandfather.

- Amid doubts over Martinez's future in Milan, Calciomercato says Inter are eyeing Atalanta forward Duvan Zapata.

- According to Goal, Manchester City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo is considering a move to MLS outfit and sister club New York City. The 36-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic faces an uncertain future at Milan amid doubts over directors Zvonimir Boban and Paolo Maldini, claims Tuttosport. Boban and Maldini had reportedly been seeking to extend Ibrahimovic's contract until 2021 but the pair are reportedly set to leave San Siro following a row with Elliott Management.

Athletic Bilbao have taken charge of their Copa del Rey semi-final after claiming a 1-0 win over Granada at San Mames, but they will be frustrated at failing to secure a more commanding victory.

Gaizka Garitano's men were in control for most of the game, crafting several big chances and having two goals disallowed, but only take a slender victory to Granada for the second leg.

It came as little surprise when Athletic went in front in the 42nd minute, as Iker Muniain tapped home after fine work from Inaki Williams on the left flank.

Athletic remained the dominant side after the interval, but twice offside calls prevented them doubling their advantage, giving Diego Martinez's Granada hope for March's return encounter.

After an even start, Athletic began to carve through Granada regularly and went agonisingly close to the breakthrough in the 15th minute, but Rui Silva tipped Wiliams' fierce drive wide.

Two chances then fell to Mikel Vesga soon after – Silva palming his wicked long-range strike away from the top-left corner, before then blocking a tamer effort from inside the box a few minutes later.

Athletic eventually got the deserved opener just before half-time, the lively Williams brilliantly bringing down a lofted pass with his chest and then showing great composure to tee up an easy close-range finish for Muniain.

The hosts were twice denied a second goal inside the first 15 minutes of the second half, with Yeray Alvarez's strike chalked off for offside before Ander Capa's 20-yard volley was disallowed after a VAR review adjudged the offside Williams to have obstructed Silva's sight.

Granada began to offer some attacking threat towards the end, with Unai Simon turning Carlos Neva's drive around the post and then catching Maxime Gonalons' header from the resulting corner, as Athletic held on.

 

What does it mean?

Athletic have the aggregate lead, but Granada are not to be underestimated and represent formidable opponents in their own stadium.

In 12 home matches across all competitions this season, Granada have won eight. Three of the four teams to take something away from the Nuevo Los Carmenes are Sevilla, Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad, all of whom are in the top six.

When there's a Williams, there's a way

More or less everything good about Athletic's play went through Muniain or Williams, or both, but the latter was the standout performer. He gave the Granada defence so many issues with his pace and movement, and his role in the winning goal was just sublime.

Machis anonymous

Granada struggled immensely to offer any form of attacking threat, with Carlos Fernandez and Roberto Soldado provided with poor service. Darwin Machis should have been one of the players supporting them, but he touched the ball just 13 times before his 71st-minute withdrawal, failing to create a single chance.

What's next?

Athletic welcome Osasuna on Sunday as they return to LaLiga action, having not won any of their past eight league matches. Granada play host to Real Valladolid the day before. The two sides resume hostilities in the second leg at the Nuevo Los Carmenes on March 5.

Aritz Aduriz hopes to end his Athletic Bilbao career by winning the Copa del Rey, admitting he had grown tired of watching Barcelona and Real Madrid "win everything".

Athletic knocked Barca out of the competition at the quarter-final stage last week thanks to a stoppage-time own goal from Sergio Busquets.

Madrid had earlier been defeated 4-3 at home by Athletic's Basque rivals Real Sociedad, marking the first time in 65 years that Spain's grandest two clubs had been eliminated from the Copa on the same day.

The semi-finals will see Athletic face Granada and Sociedad take on Mirandes, with the decision to reformat the competition by removing two-legged ties prior to the last four paying dividends for some of Spain's lesser lights.

Aduriz was part of the team beaten by Barca in the 2015 final, during the Catalans' run of winning the trophy in four consecutive years.

Indeed, Athletic have lost three Copa finals to Barca since 2009, and Aduriz is now eager to end his career by making the most of a more level playing field.

"[The new format] is not discredited; on the contrary, it has more value," said the striker at the Panenka magazine gala. "We are a little tired of seeing Barcelona and Real Madrid win everything.

"But it is nice to see competitions with more dynamism. You can see it in England, [where] it's enriching. It's a format that people like.

"I have been fantasising about [winning the cup] for a long time. At the beginning, it was a fantasy, and it may be closer now, although it is very difficult.

"Imagine retiring from football this season and winning a title. It's anyone's dream."

Aduriz also made it clear he is in favour of VAR, despite persistent criticism of the technology from across Europe's top leagues.

VAR has been criticised since its introduction, but Aduriz stressed he is in favour of the new technology.

"I love VAR," he said. "It is clear that we have to improve. It is new and it will evolve, but there is more success than the opposite.

"It makes me calmer on the pitch."

Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad could meet in the Copa del Rey final after the Basque rivals were kept apart in the semi-final draw.

Sociedad secured their place in the last four with a thrilling 4-3 win over Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu on Thursday, with Athletic beating Barcelona 1-0 hours later thanks to a last-gasp Inaki Williams header.

It marked the first time in 65 years that LaLiga's top two clubs were eliminated from the Copa on the same day.

Gaizka Garitano's Athletic will now face Granada, who knocked out holders Valencia in the quarter-finals, while Sociedad will meet Segunda Division side Mirandes.

Athletic and Sociedad will host their respective first legs, which take place on February 12, with the return fixtures scheduled for March 4.

The final is expected to be held on April 18 at La Cartuja in Seville, which last hosted a major club football match in 2003, when it staged the UEFA Cup final between Porto and Celtic.

Real Madrid and Barcelona exited the Copa del Rey on the same date for the first time since 1955 following shock defeats.

LaLiga giants Madrid and Barca both crashed out in the quarter-finals on Thursday, stunned by Basque pair Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao respectively.

Madrid were upstaged 4-3 by visiting Sociedad at the Santiago Bernabeu, while Lionel Messi's Barca – runners-up for six successive seasons – conceded a 93rd-minute goal in a 1-0 loss away to Athletic.

It is the first time in 65 years Madrid and Barca have been eliminated on the same day – the pair ousted by Sevilla and Athletic in the 1955 semi-finals.

LaLiga leaders Madrid and Barca will now turn their attention to league and Champions League honours.

Madrid – three points clear atop LaLiga – face Manchester City in the Champions League last 16, while Barca meet Napoli.

Barcelona stumbled to a new setback in their troubled week as Inaki Williams' header in added time dumped last season's beaten finalists out of the Copa del Rey.

A hard-fought quarter-final appeared destined for extra time until Williams applied enough of a touch to Ibai Gomez's inswinging cross from the right flank to send the ball beyond Marc-Andre ter Stegen and into the net.

The winner in the third minute of stoppage time saw Athletic through to the last four and, with Real Madrid surprisingly beaten at home by Real Sociedad just hours earlier, it means neither of Spain's two heavyweight clubs are left standing.

Lionel Messi, who had made the headlines in the lead-up to the game for criticising director of football Eric Abidal, had Barca's best chance, only to be denied by Unai Simon's outstretched left leg late in the second half.

The Athletic goalkeeper had also denied substitute Antoine Griezmann but, for the first time in seven seasons, the Catalan club will not be involved in the final of the competition.

Lionel Messi was given the chance to do his talking on the pitch on Thursday after he was named in the Barcelona starting line-up for their Copa del Rey clash with Athletic Bilbao.

Messi made headlines this week when criticising Eric Abidal, the Spanish club's director of football, for suggesting some Barca players were not working hard enough under previous boss Ernesto Valverde.

The Argentina international called out Abidal for his comments in the media, telling the Frenchman he should name the individuals who were not pulling their weight.

Such a reaction has raised questions over Messi's future at Camp Nou, though the 32-year-old was selected in the XI for the quarter-final tie against Athletic.

Ansu Fati was also chosen in the team, the teenager keeping his place after scoring both goals in Barcelona's 2-1 LaLiga win over Levante at the weekend.

Head coach Quique Setien made just one change from that side, bringing in Sergi Roberto to replace Antoine Griezmann.

Barcelona and Real Madrid avoided each other in the draw for the Copa del Rey quarter-finals on Friday.

Quique Setien's men were pitted against Athletic in the last eight, with the game taking place at San Mames next week.

Former Athletic defender Andoni Goikoetxea, the club's representative at the draw, feels home advantage could be key.

He said: "I like the draw. I wanted it to be at San Mames. It's a very difficult draw, we'll see what happens but it'll be a party.

"Athletic always has aspirations to reach the Copa final but you have to beat all the great teams to get there. Athletic can beat anyone and San Mames is a magical place."

Madrid will also fancy their chances at home to Real Sociedad, while defending champions Valencia go to Granada.

Giantkillers Mirandes, the only team from outside LaLiga remaining, were rewarded for their defeat of Sevilla with a home tie against Villarreal.

The matches will be played across February 4, 5 and 6.

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