Aston Villa enter ‘battle’ with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid for free agent defender after Unai Emery request

Aston Villa are looking to bolster their defence with a La Liga free agent this summer
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Aston Villa are preparing an ambitious move for Athletic Club’s Inigo Martinez, according to reports in Spain. The 31-year-old’s contract is set to expire this summer and the Spanish outfit could see him leave for free.

After spending his whole senior career with Real Sociedad, Martinez joined Bilbao for €32m in 2018 as a replacement for Man City’s Aymeric Laporte. The defender has made 172 appearances for the club since and, while he has suffered with heel and knee injuries this season, he has swiftly returned to the starting line-up and has since conceded only two goals in three matches this month.

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While Martinez is currently able to complete pre-contract agreements with clubs across Europe, Super Deporte claim that Athletic are yet to offer the centre-back fresh terms, however they are thought to be preparing a new deal and it will be up to him whether he extends his stay in Spain. The lack of negotiations between the two parties has left the likes of Aston Villa interested in his signature, with Unai Emery familiar with the Spaniard from his time in his home country.

The report claims that Villa have ‘entered the auction’ for the 31-year-old at Emery’s request, however they face tough competition from the likes of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. The Catalan giants are eager to snap up the free agent as it means they won’t have to pay a fee and their current financial situation leaves them with little cash to spend. Both of the La Liga sides could be very tempting for Martinez if he is to wish to remain in Spain, though the prospect of moving to the Premier League may also look appealing.

The race for Martinez’s signature is likely to heat up towards the summer given his quality and senior experience, meaning Villa may have to act fast if they want to lure him to Birmingham. While they won’t have to cough up a hefty fee for his services, his €96,000 weekly wages would put a big dent in the club’s salary budget. The defender is thought to earn more than the likes of Matty Cash, Douglas Luiz and Ollie Watkins.

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