Bilbao stopper inks new deal
By Mark Kendall
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Defender Luis Prieto has agreed a new four-year deal with Athletic Bilbao.Athletic Bilbao defender Luis Prieto has signed a new four-year deal with the Basque club.
Prieto was one of a number of Athletic players whose contract was due to expire at the end of the season.
However, the stopper - who turns 26 later this month - has now committed his future to the club by signing a deal that runs until June 2009.
Prieto - who spent three years on loan at Eibar before making the breakthrough at Athletic - has seen his release fee set at é¼20 million.
He is the first of a host of players that Athletic are hoping to tie down to new deals in the coming months.
Ismael Urzaiz, Santiago Ezquerro, Javi Gonzalez and Ander Murillo are all still locked in contract talks with the club over their futures.
The biggest question marks hang over 33-year-old Urzaiz, who has been offered just a one-year deal, and Ezquerro whose current demands are some way above what Bilbao are willing to offer.
However, the club have revealed that coach Ernesto Valverde definitely will be staying on next season.
With his own contract running out in the summer there had been some speculation the 41-year-old might not be kept on, but president Fernando Lamikiz has dismissed that notion.
"Next season the coach is going to be Valverde. It is something we have had clear in our heads since the beginning," Lamikiz told television station, Bilbovision.
"He is a young coach, who is learning. He is one of the best in the league and he has a great future ahead of him.
"We want him to continue here for many years and to have great success with us."