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Sunday, August 19, 2012
Athletic's Fernando Llorente left out

Adam Digby, Italy Correspondent

Speculation is mounting over the future of Fernando Llorente amid reports that Juventus have increased their offer for the Spain striker.

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Llorente has been left out of the side to face Real Betis in Athletic Bilbao's season opener on Sunday, intensifying the conjecture over his future.

La Gazzetta dello Sport reports that the Bianconeri have upped their offer by €2 million to €18m as the player has refused to discuss a new contract with the Basque club and will be able to leave on a free transfer in 12 months' time.

Llorente - whose current deal includes a €36m buy-out clause - was, along with fellow want-away star Javi Martinez, subject to fan protests at the club training ground this past week with a banner reading "Athletic without mercenaries".

"Llorente get out now," was repeatedly chanted at the 27-year-old and as such Marcelo Bielsa has taken the decision to leave both men out of the Betis game. The coach, however, was keen to show empathy to all parties as he said at his pre-match press conference.

He said: "Nobody ever said that I'd leave if Llorente and Martinez went. I am satisfied with the team with or without Llorente. It is a difficult situation, because all the positions are understandable.

"Llorente is exercising his rights, while the club and the fans are understandable too, aside from the method of the protest which I do not share."

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