Wiping away tears during his farewell press conference with Real Sociedad, Spanish midfielder Asier Illarramendi called his freshly completed transfer to Real Madrid an "opportunity" he couldn't refuse. If Illarramendi plays for Madrid the way he has over the past 12 months, the feeling should be mutual.
Illarramendi, 23, joined Real Madrid on Friday in a deal worth €39 million, per The Guardian. Real Madrid announced the signing on RealMadrid.com, calling Illarramendi an "intuitive player" who will add "youth, projection, mobility, technique, good criteria, and dynamism" to first-year manager Carlo Ancelotti's midfield.
For his part, Illarramendi seemed torn between dedication to Sociedad and the thrill of a bigger club like Real Madrid.
"I came to the conclusion that it was an offer I couldn't refuse. It's a unique opportunity," Illarramendi said, per BBC Sport, as he left Sociedad after three seasons with the senior squad. "It hasn't been an easy decision; it has been very difficult for me because Real Sociedad have given me so much."
Widely hailed as the "new Xabi Alonso," Illarramendi arrives at Real Madrid bearing great expectations. Like Alonso, Illarramendi came through the youth ranks at Sociedad, making his first-team debut in January 2011.
After impressing for Sociedad in 32 La Liga appearances last season, Illarramendi was a key part of the Spain squad that won the Euro Under-21 Championship this summer.
"Clearly I am beginning a new stage in my career,'' Illarramendi said, per the Associated Press. "It will be different. Everything there gets much more media attention, but I will give it my all as I always have here. Then we will see.''
For a hint of what Real Madrid can expect from Illarramendi next season, check out the video above.