Soccer

Bilbao signs midfielder Benat Etxebarria

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BILBAO, Spain (AP)

Athletic Bilbao says it has reached a deal with Real Betis to secure the return of midfielder Benat Etxebarria to the Basque club.

Bilbao says Benat's contract is for five seasons.

The 26-year-old Benat played for Bilbao's second team until 2008. He had a breakout season for Betis in 2010-11 and has become one of the Spanish league's most sought-after playmakers.

Benat joins a talented midfield already boasting youngsters Ander Herrera, Iker Muniain and Oscar de Marcos.

He says ''I had to leave (Bilbao) because they decided they didn't need me. Now I'm grateful to Betis for believing in me so I can return. It's a dream I've had since I was a child.''

Bilbao hired former player and coach Ernesto Valverde last week to replace Marcelo Bielsa.

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