Atletico Madrid extends Saul contract for 9 years

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After a successful U-21 European Championship that saw him bag five goals in four matches, 22-year-old Saul Niguez has extended his contract at Atletico Madrid for a whopping nine years.

The 22-year-old academy product already had a long-term contract at the club that ran through 2021, but has tacked on five more seasons to it, also increasing his buyout clause from the old $104 million along the way, according to reports. He is thus now tied to the club through age 31.

Saul had been linked with both Barcelona and Manchester United, so his new contract is a strong statement to those and other suitors.

The central midfielder scored four La Liga goals last season, racking up over 2,500 league minutes in 33 appearances. He scored another four goals in 12 Champions League matches, including one against cross-town rivals Real Madrid as Atletico attempted a comeback in the second leg of their semifinal matchup.

Saul’s successful U-21 Euro campaign had other clubs hot on his trail, and it’s only a matter of time before Saul becomes a permanent part of the country’s senior setup. He made his Spain debut in September of last year and has three caps, appearing in the country’s last two matches.

FIFA rules state contracts can only be five years in length, but because Spanish employment laws allow for longer, the world governing body defers to the local rules.