By Alberto Pinero & Ander Bilbao
New Fulham signing Fernando Amorebieta insists he is relishing his decision to take a step into the unknown by joining the west London club, despite never having met new manager Martin Jol.
The experienced Venezuela international was the first of a mini wave of early summer signings by the west London club who have also secured the services of former Roma goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg and Ghanaian midfielder Derek Boateng.
Amorebieta spent eight successful years in Spain with Athletic Bilbao but felt the offer of the chance to join a London-based top-flight team was too good to reject, despite having never met his new manager or any of his new team-mates, and not even visited the club’s training ground.
Fulham are 6/1 with Coral to be relegated next season
“I have wanted to meet the captain, Brede Hangeland, because he is well-liked by the fans, an important player for Fulham, and I have heard very good things about him.
“I decided to move to Fulham because, from speaking to them, it seemed like a club with a friendly atmosphere like the one I’m used to at Athletic. They contacted me and gave me a good impression. I think it was a wise decision.
“I had other options, but the best one was from Fulham. To be settled and living in London is a must. I have not yet been able to visit Fulham’s training ground but I really want to meet my new team-mates. I want to demonstrate the player that I am. I have great enthusiasm for this new adventure.”
Despite the centre-half’s keenness to begin the next chapter in his career, he admits it was a difficult decision to cut his ties with the Basque outfit, with whom he played a prominent role during their memorable run to the final of the Europa League in 2012.
He said: “I’ll miss many things from Athletic. There was a real sense of togetherness at the club with guys who have come through together since they were kids. They spent a lifetime travelling the same journey together and that creates a special atmosphere.
“There have been times where I thought twice about the move but I will try to integrate with my new team-mates as best as I can. I’m already taking English lessons and I will have a speech prepared for my first day when I meet my new team-mates.
“I am going to miss my friends from Athletic very much. The day I said goodbye to them was at the wedding of Inigo Perez, and when I left I spoke to everyone. It was a very hard time for me. But that's football. And it is my decision.”