Saturday's goal by mid-thirty-something Aritz Aduriz has offered us a chance to remember José María Peña, a powerful pre-Civil War wing-half who'd hitherto held the record as Spain's oldest ever scorer. I'd been unaware of that, I confess. Given his position (something along the lines of today's full-back), it was unusual for him to be getting goals. Indeed, it was his only strike for the national side. He was one of the first professionals in the Spanish game (signing pro terms with Real Madrid when bought from Arenas de Getxo), and combined football with athletics. Alfredo Di Stéfano (whose quality and drive saw him enjoy a long career) came close to Peña's mark, but it hadn't been bettered until Aduriz.
It's one thing scoring for Spain at 35...
For me, Aduriz's achievement is doubly extraordinary. It's already quite a feat netting for your country at nearly 36, by which age very few players are getting a game at international level, not to mention beating a more than 80-year-old record in the process - one not even Di Stéfano managed to break. What's truly unique about Aduriz, however, is that the best days of his career have come after his 30th birthday. Twice Athletic had let him go. He had spells at Burgos and Valladolid the first time, and at Mallorca and Valencia the second. He was a bright, energetic striker; but, it's fair to say, nothing out of the ordinary. In his second season at Mestalla, he was understudy to Roberto Soldado.
Nothing special in his 20s, idol in his 30s
But since turning 30 he's hit new heights, registering best-ever figures. He's older than David Villa and Fernando Torres, the two chief frontmen for the post-Raúl La Roja, both of whom are no longer in the picture. He's knocked on the door so hard he's now alongside Diego Costa and Álvaro Morata and has banished the notion you should only call on younger 'long-term solutions'. Good genes, hard work, rest, drive, luck with injuries. Nothing to particularly write home about in his 20s; Athletic's leading light in his 30s (when the likes of Zarra, the Arieta brothers, Carlos and Sarabia were in decline and set for retirement). And happily knocking them in for Spain, ready to stretch the record even further.