Aritz Aduriz the prolific Spanish elder statesman who for the longest time went ignored, behind the likes of Torres, Llorente, Costa and Villa, he finally earned a recall to the National Team at the age of thirty-five. Whilst his return was not as fruitful as he would wish, he’s proven, that age in football is no barrier as his club form over an eighteen career.
Starting his professional career in 1999, Aduriz develop through the ranks of the highly regarded Lezama youth system at Athletic Bilbao, rather unusually, he arrived in the system at 19, having spent time a year with amateur side Aurrera de Vitoria. Scoring 18 goals in 90 appearances for the second team over a two year period, Aduriz made his first team debut on September 14th, 2002 against Barcelona. His career got off to a slow start and he subsequently spent a season with Burgos CF and a season and a half with Real Valladolid in the Spanish Second Division, a two year stint in the second division which saw him score 16 goals in 38 games for Burgos CF and 22 goals in 52 games for Real Valladolid. A total of 38 goals in 90 appearances, a return of nearly a goal every second game.
In 2005 he returned to Athletic Bilbao, but he found himself behind Fernando Llorente (A familiar trend that would plague his career for several years), although he still managed to net 22 goals in 82 games as Bilbao’s second choice striker, which included a memorable hat-trick against Real Zaragoza in 2007. Starved of opportunity, he moved to Mallorca in 2008 and in two years with the club, he scored 24 goals in 78 games across all competitions, a return of a goal every three games. In the 2010 season, he moved to Valencia seeking another challenge and a new level of quality, however, he found himself behind Roberto Soldado and Jonas, starving himself of more opportunities. Despite this, Aduriz was still able to provide a serviceable return scoring 23 in 84 games across all competitions.
Left wanting more, Aritz Aduriz returned to Atheltic Bilbao for a third time at the age of 31, with a wealth of experience and a career scoring record of a goal every four games, Aduriz was returning with a chance to be, for the first time in his career a real first choice striker. The opportunity was in front of him, and he took it. In his first season back with Bilbao, he played 44 games across all competitions, which at that point was the second most games he’d played in one season, scoring 18 goals along the way. In the 2013-14 season, Adruiz scored another 18 goals across all competitions in an injury reduced 36 game season, a goal every second game. Bilbao finished the year 4th, and qualified for the Champions League Play-off, winning their way into the group stages, beating Napoli out 4-2 over two legs, with Aduriz’s brace in the second leg proving vital. In two season back at the age of 33, Aduriz had a scoring rate of 0.45 goals a game, a figure which he has continued to maintain since.
In the next three seasons, his performances drove Athletic Bilbao to a new level of consistency, finishing seventh in the following season, on the back of 26 goals in 48 games. In the 2015-16 season, Bilbao finished 5th and qualified for the Europa League, propelled by his 20 goal domestic season. The 2015-206 season was Aduriz’s most fruitful season, he played 55 games across all competitions, the most in a single season for his career, and this game time saw his best season return, with 36 goals. Athletic Bilbao, again qualified for the Europa League, marking the third successive season in which Atheltic Bilbao had qualified for European Football.
At the end of the 2015-16 season, Aduriz’s career statistics across all competitions were 277 games for 121 goals, a per game return of 0.44, a per game return which he has not dropped below since his return to Bilbao. At the age of 35, these returns are it puts him in the conversation with Zlatan Ibrahimovic as being one of the most prolific strikers for his age.
He’s showing no signs of slowing down either, on the 3rd of November, in the Europa League, he became the first person to score five goals in a game, amazing the total against Belgian side K.R.C Genk. Blessed with pace, even at the age of 35, Aduriz is gifted with the ability to fit into almost any system that manager Ernesto Valverde wants to play. At this rate, he could carry this form well into the rest of his 30’s and continue to show world football that it’s not just a young man’s game anymore.