Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente has turned down a new contract offer from the club, a decision that stunned the club.
Llorente wants Athletic to double his wages and has rejected a three-year extension after they refused to meet his demands.
The striker’s current deal expires next summer and is said to be asking for £80,000-a-week, while Bilbao are only willing to go to £60,000.
The news that Llorente has rejected the contract offer will have alerted a whole host of top European sides have been watching and following the player for some time.
With only one year left on his current contract, Athletic Bilbao find themselves in a difficult situation. Do they sell the striker now for around £14m, which is less than half his release clause fee, or do they risk having Llorente leave for nothing in 12 months?
According to Spanish newspaper El Economista, Barcelona are hoping that Bilbao make Llorente play out this season so they can snap him up on a free transfer next summer.
New coach Tito Vilanova is said to be keen to sign a ‘classic’ centre-forward, and believes Llorente, who has previously expressed his admiration for the Catalan side, will give his team an extra dimension.
Waiting will be a risky game for Barcelona to play as Premier League clubs Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea are all said to be tracking Llorente and would be willing to meet his wage demands.