Real Sociedad midfielder Asier Illarramendi insists he always had his heart set on a return to his boyhood club despite strong interest from the Premier League. On Wednesday 26 August, Illarramendi, 25, re-joined La Real two years on from his £28.5m ($44.7m) move to Real Madrid.
While he struggled in the Spanish capital, the midfielder appeared to have no shortage of options when it became clear his time at the Santiago Bernabeu was up. The Evening Standard reported last week that both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur were eager to bring the Spaniard to the Premier League, while the Daily Mail later claimed Southampton had joined the race for his signature.
Having returned to San Sebastian, Illarramendi revealed he had considered a number of offers, but insists a move back home was always the clear choice. "I thought about all of the possibilities," Illarramendi told a press conference at the club's Anoeta Stadium, AS report. "I had my decision quite clear in my mind. I spoke to my people and made the decision two days ago.
He added: "The past few days have been quite intense but I had the thought of returning quite clear in my mind. Coming back to La Real is a nice opportunity for me. They have a great team, there is a great atmosphere within the squad here and it is a great group. I remained in contact with all of my old teammates here and I am really looking forward to this new challenge."
According to AS, the deal bringing Illarramendi back to Real Sociedad is worth around £11.9m plus add-ons. After excelling alongside the likes of Isco and Thiago Alcantara in Spain's Under-21 European Championship success in 2013, his big money move to Real Madrid followed. Illarramendi struggled to break into the first team under former coach Carlo Ancelotti, however, and failed to convince his replacement Rafa Benitez, who has decided on the partnership of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric in midfield.