Late bloomers exist in all aspects of life; even in football. Unfortunately, the modern game is also a fickle mistress and as such many supporters and even club owners find it difficult to accept a player over the age of 30, past the traditional sell by date of sorts, can offer their team anything of merit when competing at an elite level. In their eyes, these players should be considering the twilight of their careers and be looking to wind down in greener pastures elsewhere, either racking up some late career stats, shifting down the levels to match fading talent or cashing in on a few final years overseas.
That is why players like Aritz Aduriz buck the trend so significantly. Athletic Bilbao’s veteran striker has finally called quits on an impressive La Liga career which saw him particularly come into his own towards his mid-30s, when many of his compatriots were considering their finals seasons. La Liga’s record oldest goalscorer has finally seen time catch up to his body and requires a hip replacement and as such, with the Spanish football season still on hold due to coronavirus, has called time on his playing days aged 39, leaving behind quite the legacy.
Having been in the same youth team at local side Antiguoko that featured Xabi Alonso, Mikel Arteta and Andoni Iraola, Aduriz ended up failing to be picked up initially by a professional club and dropped down to amateur football before working his way into Athletic Bilbao’s academy aged 19. From then, he had a relatively good if unspectacular La Liga career until he rejoined Athletic Bilbao for a third spell in 2012 and went on to make 313 appearances in all competitions despite his advancing age, scoring an equally impressive 149 goals in that spell. That included a late bicycle kick in a 1-0 win over Barcelona in August 2019 at the age of 38 – a goal which also helped Aduriz equal Lionel Messi’s record of scoring in 15 consecutive league seasons. He also broke into a Spanish national team he’d only briefly featured for during his career in that latter spell, featuring both at Euro 2016 and becoming the country’s oldest goalscorer when he netted in 2016 at the age of 35 years and 275 days against Macedonia.
The second coming Aduriz enjoyed in his career proves beyond doubt the worth that a veteran player can offer a club despite their advancing age.