Real Sociedad's Battle to Retain Star Players

Tre' Atkinson@@TreAtkinsonFeatured ColumnistJuly 4, 2013

Real Sociedad's Battle to Retain Star Players

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    The football world is still taking in the unbelievable season of Real Sociedad, which will see the Basque club play in the Champions League next season. But now the real fight begins.

    As if earning a Champions League spot was not difficult enough, La Real must do what countless clubs cannot and make sure they hold on to their best stars for the upcoming season.

    Real Sociedad president Jokin Aperribay recently conducted an interview with Basque radio station Onda Vasca (h/t Inside Spanish Football), stating “We have no intention of selling any player, because we have no need to sell to balance the books.”

    It seems as though the club is set to hold on to their most important pieces. But with high bids possibly coming in, can that actually be done? Continue reading to find out.

Antoine Griezmann

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    One very important star in the Real Sociedad squad is French international Antoine Griezmann, who has been attracting attention for some time.

    Back in May, the 22-year-old was rumored to have several clubs watching him closely. Sky Sports reported that both Arsenal and AC Milan could be the top clubs interested in the player.

    However, Griezmann quickly put those rumors down.

    In the same report, Francisco Acedo quoted Griezmann from an interview with El Mundo Deportivo in which the winger stated “I don’t see myself anywhere other than Real.”

    The 22-year-old went on to say, “Really, they are all rumors and I am fine. I am happy and comfortable. I have a contract until 2016 and will not think about anything else.”

    But that has not necessarily fended off interested clubs.

    Griezmann again came out to address transfer rumors mere days ago in an interview with Footmercato (h/t Football-Espana).

    In the interview, Griezmann claimed that “Rumors are part of football and I’m flattered, but I have a contract with La Real. Maybe someday it will happen, but not now.”

    Griezmann scored 10 goals and added three assists last season according to With the club facing tougher defenses next season in European play, keeping Griezmann is an absolute necessity.

Asier Illarramendi

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    The most recent star of La Real to receive attention is 23-year-old midfielder Asier Illarramendi. Clubs first became interested in "Illara" after his recent exploits with Spain’s U-21 side.

    A report from the Daily Mail a few weeks ago claimed that Arsenal was highly interested in the midfielder, hoping to pair him up with fellow Basque Mikel Artera. But Arsenal’s rumored price of £10million seemed to have gotten them nowhere.

    However, other clubs have begun to target the Sociedad man as well.

    Marca reports that after watching Illarramendi with Spain’s U-21 team, newly appointed Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti immediately placed him on his wish list as a necessity.

    It is believed that Ancelotti sees Illarramendi as a perfect partner and eventual replacement for the aging Xabi Alonso, but nothing has come of the rumors as of yet.

    But despite interest from bigger clubs, it looks as though Illarramendi will not be leaving either.

    In a report for Sky Sports, Lucas Brown quoted Real Sociedad manager Jagoba Arraste, who admitted that clubs are interested, but there is no negotiation. Below are his exact words on the matter.

    It is true that we are talking about one of the biggest clubs in the world, both in economic and sporting terms. However, we are not going to negotiate for him. He is not for sale. The club has made it clear, and I think the player has too, that we are not going to discuss hypothetical situations. Illarramendi has said he is very happy here and I have talked to him about in person and is very excited about the coming season. There is no plan B for us with him and he will be with us for pre-season training on Thursday.

    As with Griezmann, it looks as though Asier Illarramendi will be staying put.

Inigo Martinez

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    Easily the most targeted player on the La Real squad is 22-year-old defender Inigo Martinez. After a terrific season in La Liga and strong showings with the Spain U-21 side, there is no wondering why top clubs want the Basque.

    As the Spanish season progressed and Martinez began to constantly impress, two clubs took notice. Marca reported in May that both Barcelona and Real Madrid were keen on the defender and were ready to battle each other.

    However, the same report also made note of Martinez’s €30 million buyout clause, which could cause a problems for any club looking to sign the young defender.

    But Martinez did not take long to silence the rumors of his possible departure to a bigger club.

    Dermot Corrigan of ESPN quoted an interview between Inigo Martinez and Marca in which the young star made it clear that he would not be leaving the Anoeta. His words are as follows.

    Of course I will stay at Real Sociedad next season. I will not miss the party of playing for La Real in Europe for anything in the world. I am very happy there, that is the club of all my life, and they backed me from the beginning. Now it is my turn to return that confidence. I have a contract until 2017 and am only thinking about staying.

    Could it really be that La Real will keep all three top talents at the club?

No Worry for La Real

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    It seems as though Real Sociedad will indeed do the impossible. With Champions League play looming, the Basque club is willing to trade the possibility of making a profit on players in order to truly build on their great project.

    One reason for the club’s ability to keep these young stars is due to the European play they will get to enjoy next season. However, shockingly, it is not the biggest deciding factor.

    The decision for these players to remain in San Sebastian ultimately comes down to their own love for the club.

    It is clear in the preceding quotes that the young talent of La Real want to stay, and they are ready to compete at a higher level for their club. It makes keeping young talent much easier when both club and player do not want to make a move.

    La Real know that holding on to their stars is what got them here and what will take them forward. But the project will not end here.

    The Basque club must look to make key signings to strengthen the squad if they want to truly compete in Europe. Things will not get any easier. But if this is any indication, La Real is here to stay.

    Will Real Sociedad hold onto their top talent? Who will the club bring in? What is the future of La Real? Leave your thoughts and comments below.

    Tre’ Atkinson. Follow me on Twitter for more discussions on Real Sociedad and all Spanish football.