Illarramendi: Real Madrid to Real Sociedad not a step backwards

The midfielder is adamant his time in the capital was no disaster having failed to force his way into the first team in his two years at the Santiago Bernabeu

Asier Illarramendi has defended his spell with Real Madrid and insists his return to Real Sociedad is not a step backwards.

The central midfielder left San Sebastian for the capital in a €32 million deal in July 2013, but he struggled to force his way into Carlo Ancelotti’s plans at the Santiago Bernabeu.

With Rafael Benitez also having deemed him surplus to requirements, Illarramendi has returned to David Moyes’ side on a six-year deal, but he has hit back at claims that his Madrid career was a disaster.

“I’m very happy to be back home and with the welcome I’ve been given. I’ve been away for two years and this was an opportunity I couldn’t let pass me by. I didn’t expect to be back so soon but I always said that I would return,” he told reporters.

“They have a great team, there’s a great atmosphere within the squad here and it’s a great group. I remained in contact with all of my old team-mates here and I’m really looking forward to this new challenge.

“Madrid didn’t work out as well as I would have liked but you learn from these experiences, from the good and the bad. That’s not to say that it was all bad; I don’t think I left on a bad note – after all, I won four trophies with Madrid.

“I spent many years here and I have a lot of friends here, so it’s certainly not a step backwards. I am more mature now, I’ve trained with some of the world’s best players and even if I don’t get a great deal of continuity. I’ve learned a lot.”