There’s been no confirmation by the club just yet, but it’s being widely reported, as well as confirmed by a number of sources, that Fulham have inked the signature of Venezuelan centre half Fernando Amorebieta on a free from Athletic Bilbao. At 28 years of age, he’s not exactly the youth the club requires at that position, but at this point, anyone under 30 will do, and given his track record and experience, it looks Martin Jol has once again proved savvy on the free transfer market.
Amorebieta’s deal is for 4 years, so expect to see his name around the club for a while.
The defender is of Venezuelan birth, and has made 8 appearances for their national team, first capped in 2011. He is also of Spanish decent, and had the opportunity to play for Spain, but when he found out he wouldn’t make it to the most recent World Cup Spanish side, he chose to play for his home nation. There was a bit of red tape he had to cross since he’d played for Spanish youth squads (including the U19 side that won Euro 2004), but he was able to make the switch thanks to some rule changes in 2009. He’s scored 1 goal for his national side, the winner in a 1-0 victory coming a year and a half ago in World Cup qualifier against Argentina.
Amorebieta has been a staple at his parents’ hometown club Athletic Bilbao for a number of years, playing in a year for their youth side before appearing in 195 league matches for the La Liga side, logging a total of just under 16,000 minutes on the pitch. He’s also a staple in the referee’s book. A physical presence at just over 6’2” (192 cm), Amorebieta isn’t afraid to back down from a challenge. In league play alone, he’s been booked 75 times, and has been sent off 11 times over an 8-year span (7 double-yellows and 4 straight reds). Oddly enough, he tones it down outside of league play, picking up just 8 total Copa Del Ray bookings and no sending offs, and 7 Europa League yellow cards. He was sent off once in 8 appearances for the national side.
That physicality is much-needed for Fulham, with Brede Hangeland returning but ageing, and the position generally thin. I would tip Amorebieta to beat out Philippe Senderos for a spot once given a chance. Senderos has really stepped up his game in recent weeks, but still is shaky at times, and doesn’t have the physicality nor the ball-playing skills which the La Liga veteran will bring.
Athletic Bilbao offered the Venezuelan a 4-year extension but he turned it down. Reports also say he was linked with Arsenal and already turned down Zenit and Everton as well, so this is a coup for Fulham. The Mirror reports that he was specifically targeting a move to the Premier League. Transfermarkt values Amorebieta at £7 million, so a free transfer is shrewd business by Martin Jol.Published 16 Apr 2013, 15:20 IST