The veteran striker will be playing in his last professional season as a footballer with his boyhood club, Athletic Club Bilbao, and will be leaving the club a hero. In this early tribute, we will be taking a look at his career highs and lows and how much of an impact he has had on the club.
He got his breakthrough into senior football in the year 2002 at 21 years old when he was called up from the reserves of Athletic Bilbao. He made only three appearances for the club though and was sent on loan spells for three years to clubs in the Segunda division before coming back to the club in 2005.
In 2008 he was sold to RCD Mallorca on a four-year deal but ended up spending two years with the club, finishing both years as the team’s top scorer as well as propelling them to the Europa League via his individual performances in his second season. Valencia came knocking and he left Mallorca in 2010, impressing fans with his game play even though he was started from the bench more often than not.
After four years away from Bilbao, the love of his life, he was reunited with the club and her fans in 2012 and in no time became the first-choice striker for Los Leones.
ADURIZ AT ATHLETIC
His second and most successful spell at Athletic began at 31 years old, and he never looked like slowing down as he churned out great performances week in and week out.
When he was not scoring, he was adding something else to the team in the defence and attack. On 8 February 2015, he scored in a 2-5 loss to Barcelona at the San Mames to officially the join the La Liga 100 goals club.
His only career trophy came in that year also as he scored a hat trick in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup in a 4-0 demolition of Barcelona, and the equalizing goal in the 1-1 draw in the second leg. That same year, he hit 100 goals for Bilbao when he scored in the Europa League for the club against FK Partizan which they won by five goals to one.
In 2017 he became the club’s oldest goal scorer at 36 years old and has also twice finished as the Europa league’s top scorer while playing for Bilbao (2016/17 and 2017/18). The 2018/19 season saw him struggle with fitness issues which affected the dynamics of the team so heavily reliant on their favourite son, as he scored only two goals in 20 appearances in a league season that saw them give up their Europa league slot.
On match week one of the current La Liga seasons, he scored the only goal in Bilbao’s victory over Barcelona, a stunning bicycle kick which helped the club to their first league victory over Barcelona since the 2013/14 season.
CAREER HIGHS AND LOWS
He has rarely had fitness issues and this is a remarkable feat (in his 17 years as a professional, he has only been out of action for 87 days), one of the reasons he keeps the trust of all his coaches and fans as he is always available to serve the team in good or bad times. He affirmed this after his goal against Barcelona by saying he will always be available to help his club until his last day.
He is also the only player, alongside Lionel Messi, to score in 15 different La Liga seasons.
However, winning just one trophy in 17 years must really irk him and even though he will retire being loved by the fans, he will retire without much of physical evidence of the service he rendered to the club.
His international career is also a low for him, playing only 13 times for Spain, and this is largely due to him playing in the same generation as some of Spain’s best-ever players who have won several trophies for the national side. It will put a dent in his record, as a player can only truly be considered one of the greats if they have had a good run in the national team of their country at major tournaments.
Nobody has impacted Athletic Bilbao in recent history the way he has, and this is evident in the reception he gets when his name is announced in the San Mames. He will leave the club as the highest goal scorer of the 21st century and a modern club legend, something Athletic Bilbao fans have wanted for a long time, and something the club needs as encouragement to their younger players.