Athletic Bilbao's Inaki Williams, right, chase the ball with Rapid Wien's Thomas Schrammel during the Europa League Group F soccer match between Athletic Bilbao and Rapid Wien, at San Mames stadium, in Bilbao, northern Spain, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016. Athletic Bilbao won 1-0.(AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

Spanish football expert confirms Liverpool interest in £42 million La Liga forward

Liverpool have been confirmed to have “followed” Athletic Bilbao forward Inaki Williams, by Sky Sports’ La Liga expert Guillem Balague.

Williams has been regularly linked with a move to Merseyside, with speculation emerging at the beginning of 2016, when the Spain international was valued at around £15 million.

Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid were also mooted as potential suitors, underlining Williams’ standing as one of Europe’s most-coveted talents.

The 22-year-old has since signed a new long-term contract with Bilbao, increasing his buyout clause to around £42 million.

And according to Balague, speaking as part of a Sky Sports Q&A, this has not deterred Liverpool at this stage, with scouts still monitoring the versatile forward.

But he also attests that it is unlikely that the Reds would launch a bid for such a considerable fee, given Williams’ struggle for consistency so far in La Liga.

“He was followed by Liverpool and has a [£42 million] buyout clause,” he explained this week.

“I’m not sure any team would be willing to pay that right now because he has not proved that valuation.

“He is in no rush but he is certainly looking abroad should he move.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 1, 2017: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp gives a thumbs-up as his side beat Everton 3-1 during the FA Premier League match, the 228th Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

After scoring 13 goals and assisting a further six in 37 games in all competitions last season, Williams’ productivity has dropped in 2016/17, with seven goals and eight assists in 43 games.

This remains a respectable return for a young player largely operating on the right wing, but as Balague suggests, it’s not £42 million form.

Furthermore, whether Williams is looking to leave Bilbao at this stage is hugely questionable, particularly given his comments on a potential move from back in February.

“I am where I want to be and also very happy. The contract gives stability,” he explained.

“But I am not a person who is satisfied with what has been achieved and I always aspire to have more. I want future renewals to keep coming.

“People were able to take my words out of context. I have always said, and I maintain, that I am where I want to be and that I am very happy in Bilbao.

“I do not want to change airs, my family is very comfortable here, my team-mates are with me and my first choice will always be Athletic.”

Liverpool were reported to have scouted Williams after this commitment, but for now it seems that he is a little more than a prospective target, if his circumstances change.

Finding alternatives for Sadio Mane should be a priority for Jurgen Klopp this summer, however.

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