Over 2,500 Athletic Bilbao fans welcome home Ander Herrera: I've long imagined returning

Over 2,500 Athletic Bilbao fans welcome home Ander Herrera: I've long imagined returning

PSG midfielder Ander Herrera is thrilled with his move to Athletic Bilbao.

Herrera returns to Bilbao on-loan with the option to sign permanently.

Herrera was officially presented as an Athletic Club player on Sunday and was welcomed by around 2,500 fans at The Cathedral.

He said: "Since I left Athletic you will have always heard me talking about how special this club is. I think even if you leave Athletic, Athletic never leaves you. This club changes you, that's how it is. Athletic leaves a mark on you that is difficult to match in other places.

"I can't wait to get started, I've imagined it many times during these last couple of weeks. I'm really looking forward to meeting up again with some teammates I've played with before."

Herrera, who will wear the no.23 shirt, also said he is particularly excited to come back to a club which places such a huge emphasis on bringing through young players.

"I'm especially excited to share the dressing room with young people who have that competitive spirit and that respect for the profession.

"You can see how their eyes light up when they train with the first team. All those things motivate me a lot. Without detracting from anyone during my career, the way young lads behave elsewhere is less special than here.

"These are the values that are instilled at Lezama. Athletic is amazing in that respect. I'm lucky to be here. I have friends here who I've never lost contact with, some who are still playing and those who have retired. They left their mark on me and I would like the youngsters to see me in the same way. Those players taught me what Athletic and its philosophy is all albout. I have always used them as an example of what a professional should be."

A lot has changed at Athletic since Herrera left for Manchester United ahead of the 2014/15 season. For example, San Mamés is now fully built and the Lezama training centre has undergone a serious revamp.

"The facilities at Lezama are incredible and San Mamés is complete. I've come here a few times as a fan, sitting in my two seats I've kept as a Club Member. I went out with my daughters and my wife to see a bit of the stadium before. I told them that I had only played with three stands, because I was here when we moved from the old, magnificent San Mamés to this new, also magnificent, modern one. I'm really looking forward to playing in front of all four stands.

"This is a magnificent challenge, at a super stadium, with a new standing section that, for football fans like myself and those of us who don't watch matches sitting down, is a marvel. I'm also one of those who used to stand to sing and cheer when I was a kid."

Club president Jon Uriarte was delighted to be able to welcome Ander back to Bilbao, saying: "We're very happy and excited to have Ander Herrera with us and we've seen that all the fans who've come to San Mamés today are also very happy.

"The other day we came here to announce the ambitious goals we have for this season and we believe that Ander is going to help us achieve them. I think this is a very good deal for us."