Illarramendi signs 6-year contract with Madrid
Holding midfielder Asier Illarramendi became Real Madrid's sixth most-expensive transfer in club history on Saturday after signing a six-year contract with the Spanish powerhouse.
Madrid paid Illarramendi's buyout clause of 32 million euros ($42 million) and another 6 million euros ($8 million) in taxes on Friday to secure his release from Real Sociedad, making the relatively unknown player the club's most costly Spanish acquisition.
Only Cristiano Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Kaka, Luis Figo and Ronaldo have cost Madrid more. And they were already stars before arriving in the Spanish capital, while Illarramendi has yet to score a goal in Spain's top flight.
''Today is a very special day for me. To form part of this club is an enormous achievement,'' Illarramendi said at his presentation after a handful of supporters had stopped chanting his name.
The 23-year-old Basque finished his move from Sociedad after passing a medical exam with Madrid's team doctors and inking the deal with Madrid club president Florentino Perez.
He then put on his new white jersey with the No. 24 and the shortened version of his last name ''Illarra'' on the back and kicked several balls to the hundreds of fans in the Santiago Bernabeu stands.
The young player from a small coastal village admitted that he was nervous at the sudden attention but said that his high price tag wouldn't add any pressure to perform.
''I'm from a village of 5,000 inhabitants and my life will change but I won't,'' Illarramendi said. ''I only think about the game and in doing my job well. I prefer not to talk about money. What I do think is that Madrid has shown a great interest in me and that I have to thank the club, and above all president Florentino Perez, for that.''
Illarramendi is from Mutriku, a village in the Basque Country in northern Spain, and he thanked Sociedad for his decade with the San Sebastian-based club.
''A few days ago I would have never imagined wearing any shirt other than that of Sociedad, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,'' he said. ''Now I face a new challenge in my career. I assure you I will give it my all for these colors. I hope to keep growing with this club.''
Illarramendi helped Sociedad earn a Champions League berth for this season and was part of Spain's under-21 European champion side this summer.
He joins fellow under-21 teammates Francisco ''Isco'' Alarcon and Daniel Carvajal as Madrid's reinforcements this offseason for new coach Carlo Ancelotti as part of Perez's clear intention to collect Spain's latest batch of talent.
Illarramendi will now fight for playing time in Madrid's star-studded squad to join former Sociedad standout Xabi Alonso in Ancelotti's midfield.
Illarramendi said that Alonso was a ''reference'' for him and that he hoped to learn as much as he could from the Spanish international.
Not a household name even in Spain until this week, Illarramendi debuted for Sociedad's first team in January 2011, the first of three appearances that season. He played 18 games in 2011-12 and started 34 last season.
Illarramendi provided a first line of defense in Sociedad's midfield and his sure passing allowed it to deploy one of the league's most attractive and effective attacks over the past two seasons.