Athletic Bilbao striker Aritz Aduriz has announced his retirement from professional football after an exceptionally long and remarkable career in Spain. The veteran appears to have reluctantly made the decision after doctors recommended that he should have hip replacement surgery as soon as possible.
“The time has come. Many times, I have said that football will leave you before you leave it. Yesterday, the doctors told me to go to see the surgeon, sooner rather than later, to get a prosthetic to replace my hip and to try and go about my everyday life, as normally as possible. Unfortunately, my body has said ‘enough’. I can’t help my team-mates the way I would like to, nor the way that they deserve. That is the life of a professional athlete. Simple, very simple.”Aritz Aduriz
Aritz Aduriz’s farewell season cut short
It was a fact well-known that the present campaign was intended to be Aritz Aduriz‘s last season as he made the announcement last summer. The 39-year-old was meant to see off the end of his contract on June 30 and the curtain-call was supposed to be the Copa del Rey final on April 18 where Athletic Bilbao would face Real Sociedad, his hometown San Sebastian’s team, in an all-Basque meeting.
However, barely two weeks after Los Leones booked their place in the final, all professional footballing activities in Spain were suspended as a precaution against the spread of the deadly coronavirus, which had, by then, brought the entire world into a standstill.
The former Valencia and Mallorca man, however, holds no indignation towards the suspension of his final season- and the denial of his storybook farewell- as the containment of a pandemic that has affected his country so badly is, to him, the unquestionable priority.
Aritz Aduriz expressed this sentiment in his farewell message saying,
“Unfortunately, we are living through situations much more grim and painful; the pandemic that we are suffering from has left us with irreparable damage and we have to keep fighting it, together. Therefore, I don’t want you to worry about me, this is just an anecdote. Let’s forget about the finals we dreamt about because we will have time to say goodbye.”
An honest career
Aritz Aduriz began his senior career with Athletic Bilbao and was something of a late bloomer as he joined the club at 19 and it was not until the age of 23, after a loan stint at Real Valladolid in the Segunda División, that he felt he had a future in professional football.
Much of his 20-year career was spent with the Lions and while he did have stints at Mallorca and Valencia, he always found himself back at the club that he has come to love.
Unlike his contemporaries, the San Sebastian-born man had to be incredibly patient for his best years to arrive.
When they finally came in his thirties, the charismatic striker rivaled the best attackers in the country, with his goalscoring form culminating in the 2015-16 season, during which he scored 20 times and inspired Athletic to their first trophy in 30 years – the 2016 Supercopa de Espana.
The charismatic striker registered 158 goals – 118 of which were for Athletic Bilbao – and 49 assists in his career, making him the second-highest Spanish goalscorer in the 21st century, second only to David Villa who netted 186.
He is also the only player, besides Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos, to score in 15 consecutive La Liga seasons. In addition, he is fifth on the all-time appearance list in La Liga, playing 443 times across 16 seasons.
Internationally, Aritz Aduriz made his senior debut at the age of 29 when he came off the bench during Spain’s 3-1 win over Lithuania in the Euro 2012 qualifiers. He became the oldest goalscorer in Spain’s history when he scored his second and final goal for the national team in a 4-0 World Cup qualifying defeat of Macedonia in November 2016 at the age of 35 years and 275 days.
The perfect denouement
The much-anticipated Copa del Rey final is yet to be rescheduled, with La Liga likely to be the top priority for the football authorities in Spain. There is even a real possibility that it could take place much later than expected as both Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad are keen on playing the match in the presence of their supporters.
It may be said that Aritz Aduriz has been denied his perfect farewell but it is worth remembering that there are very few things more poetic than scoring his last professional goal, a match-winning volley, against the first opponent of his senior career- Barcelona- in the opening game of his final season.
The Athletic Bilbao legend certainly seems content enough with his ending saying,
“This is how the road ends for me — unforgettable and marvellous, from beginning to end. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”
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