The great driver of Athletic’s excellent season has been Aritz Aduriz. The veteran forward has plundered 36 goals in all competitions, a figure not reached by a Lion since the great Telmo Zarra hit 46 in the 1950-51 season. Aduriz is now the 12th highest scorer in Athletic’s history, with 121 goals to his name. As long as he doesn’t mislay his scoring boots next season, he will likely finish ninth in the all-time list when, as is likely, he hangs up his boots. At the moment he is eight behind Urzaiz, nine behind Unamuno and 12 shy of Artetxe. In order to catch Gainza he would need another campaign like 2015-16: Aduriz is 31 adrift of the 1950 Spain World Cup captain.
Aduriz has exceeded his total of last season by 10 goals and throughout the course of the campaign he has left Athletic greats Ziganda, Venancio, Joseba Etxeberria, Carlos, Guerrero, Iriondo, Llorente, Sarabia and Uriarte in his wake, overtaking the latter with a skilful volley in Athletic’s 2-0 win over Sevilla at the weekend.
“I never imagined I would find myself among these Athletic legends; I feel very privileged to see my name alongside these idols,” said a visibly proud Aduriz at the end of the Liga season.
Among his achievements this season, Aduriz was the top scorer in the Spanish Supercup (4), the highest national scorer in La Liga (20) and also the Europa League’s top marksman (10), assuming Kevin Gameiro, who has hit seven, doesn’t catch him in the final. He also scored two in the Copa del Rey.
I can’t do anything other than thank my teammates, who have helped me to get to this number. They give me so much and I am eternally grateful to them and to the coaching staff for their support,” said Aduriz, who capped his season with a call-up to the Spain squad in March and a goal in a friendly against Italy.
However, despite his prolific season Aduriz is aware that retirement is creeping up on him sooner rather than later. “It’s a natural process. It’s obvious that the end isn’t far off. I hope to keep competing at the same level. I’ve still got a year left on my contract and I’ll try to improve on this season, although I know it will be difficult. I’ll fight and push myself to be the best professional I can be, looking after my body. That’s the most important thing to be at a good level. I’m enjoying training and playing more than ever. I’ll try to be the best I can next season.”
Aduriz also highlighted the fighting spirit of the current Athletic side. “As a fan, I feel really proud of this team, not just because of our results but because we always give it everything, we’re united, we leave it all on the pitch and we always go out to win, which is worth a lot. We’ve had a great season but the way we’ve carried ourselves is something to be really proud of.”
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