Arsene Wenger's policy of offering only one-year contract extensions to players over 30 years old could be to the massive benefit of Athletic Bilbao, following Basque player Mikel Arteta's public criticism of the policy.
Arteta, 32, will make his 124th appearance for Arsenal if he features in Saturday's FA Cup final against Hull and has been at the club since moving from Everton in 2011.
At the time of his transfer to Arsenal, Athletic Bilbao then-president Fernando García Macua was keen to sign the uncapped Spaniard and promised his signing if he remained as president after Bilbao's elections. He didn't and Arteta instead moved to North London.
Now, however, Arteta has voiced his disagreement with Arsenal's contract policy for older players and dropped some very strong hints that he is considering leaving if talks this summer don't go well. His current contract will be up at the end of next season.
Arteta said: "I will talk to them this summer and see what they want to do. I am only
going to stay if they really want me to stay and I feel productive."
The public statement from Arteta will have been very interesting back in Bilbao, where Athletic have qualified for the Champions League qualifiers with a fourth place La Liga finish and will feature in the tournament for the first time since 1998/99.
The club runs a Basque only recruitment policy, however, which could make a challenge in Europe difficult. Athletic Bilbao only fields players born in the Basque Country, of Basque decent (with the 'grandparent rule') or who were trained in the Basque Country. The policy means that the extra Champions League money will have little value in the transfer market since the pool of players available to them is so limited.
This is why Arteta's contract talks at Arsenal will be closely watched by the Basque club. Despite Arteta's connections with rivals Real Sociedad, he is eligible and would be a welcome boost to a squad looking to strengthen for Europe's biggest stage.
No formal negotiations have started between the clubs, but if Arteta's upcoming contract talks with Arsenal were to hit a stumbling block then Arteta could do a lot worse than return to the Basque Country. Athletic have just finished their first season in a brand new stadium and, money-wise, Athletic would be able to offer Arteta the kind of wages he is currently on at Arsenal given that the extra Champions League money won't be available for a huge transfer spending spree.
The fact that Arsenal are also reportedly interested in Bilbao's Ander Herrera could also encourage negotiations between the clubs.
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