inigo martinez

Barcelona want Athletic Bilbao defender Inigo Martinez to replace Gerard Pique, according to reports in Spain.

The veteran defender, 35, announced his shock retirement from football on Thursday, with Saturday’s game against Almeria to be his last.

And as reported by Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo, the Spanish giants have moved quickly in identifying Martinez as the ideal man to fill the gap left by Pique.

Centre back Martinez has been capped 19 times by Spain and is seen as one of the best defenders in LaLiga.

The 31-year-old Basque Country player is out of contract in summer 2023, meaning clubs outside Spain can approach to sign him on a free transfer from January, and he could move for nothing at the end of the season.

Barcelona reportedly have a verbal agreement to sign Martinez in July, but may explore the possibility of snapping him up in the winter transfer window if they can secure him on the cheap, with Bilbao potentially keen to avoid losing him for free.

However, his knee injury situation is said to be a concern after suffering from from patellar tendonitis in his left knee in pre-season.

Pique’s retirement comes amid tension at the Nou Camp over the club’s attempts to force him out to save the cash-strapped club money.

His exit reportedly could save Barcelona a massive £44million.

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