If reports are to be believed, Real Madrid are hoping to seal the capture of Spanish central midfielder Asier Illarramendi later this week, with the fee possibly amounting to €30 million. (AS English)
Reports suggest that an agreement with the player is close, with just minor details to be settled, while Real Sociedad will be unable to refuse any such offer due to a buyout clause in the player's contract.
"As of today, Illarramendi continues to be a Real Sociedad player. We are counting on him for this season," Real Sociedad president Jokin Aperribay told reporters on Tuesday morning."
Such words are all well and good, but the overwhelming feeling is that Illarramendi is almost certainly headed for the Bernabeu this week. Indeed, reports that he will take the No. 8 shirt from Kaká have already been doing the rounds for a couple of days. (Football-Espana)
"If Madrid meet his buyout clause then it's up to them and the player to agree terms. I must say that Real Madrid have been behaving very well during negotiations so far."
Assuming the transfer will eventually go through, Illarramendi is a player who could potentially play a part in a successful future for Los Merengues.
As an aside, it is interesting to note that, should he sign, he will become the club's third high-profile Spanish addition this summer—following Real's captures of Under-21 colleagues Isco and Dani Carvajal.
It is a dramatic change of approach from recent years, when the club's Spanish influence has been limited to just a couple of players. However, it could be argued that it will mean little if talents such as forward Jesé Rodriguez are still allowed to walk away. (Express)
In Illarramendi, though, the club will hope to sign a potentially special midfield talent. He may even bring about the exit of the excellent Xabi Alonso—the man to whom he is most often compared.
Asier Illarramendi: Of every player with 2+ starts at the U21 European Championship, the Spaniard had the highest pass success (95.1%)
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) July 6, 2013
It has been over the past 12 months at Real Sociedad that the 23-year-old midfielder has really come to light, helping La Real to a place in the 2013-14 UEFA Champions League.
His controlling influence at the base of the midfield, retaining possession and bringing the side's skilled creative players into play have all been major reasons behind that success.
Illarramendi is always available and is confident receiving the ball even in tight spaces.
In Ancelotti's favoured diamond midfield setup, he is a perfect candidate to take on the deep-lying midfield role occupied by Andrea Pirlo at Milan, John Obi Mikel at Chelsea and Marco Verratti at PSG.
Defensively, he is also more than willing to "get stuck in" for his side—another shared trait with Alonso.
Illarra picked up 11 yellow cards in La Liga last campaign, making a total of 121 tackles over the course of the season. His industry in that respect was another key reason behind Sociedad's success.
To expect Illarramendi to go straight in and perform at the levels of Xabi Alonso would be too much, but given time he may well match his illustrious Basque compatriot. That is the level of potential he has shown.
With Real Madrid looking to build a young Spanish core for the future, Illarramendi will be central to their planning.
The high initial outlay on this summer's targets will soon be forgotten should they provide the club with continued success. It won't be easy, but the moves suggest Real are evolving for the better once again.