Ibai Gómez “We’re Going To Take Out La Gabarra And Aduriz Will Be On It”
When Aritz Aduriz announced yesterday that he would be retiring from football due to a hip injury there was equal parts sorrow and celebration. Fans, teammates, coaches, and everyone who has ever known Aduriz praised the 39-year-old for a legendary career, albeit with sadness that he has to hang up his boots. On Thursday Ibai Gómez spoke to the media at Lezama and reflected on what Aduriz has meant to him personally, to Athletic, and to the world of football.
“There have been few nines like Adu. We’re talking about a total legend, not only for Athletic, but also worldwide. He’s in the top 3 of Athletic history. I speak of what I’ve been able to experience as a fan and as a player. Guerrero, Etxeberria, and Aduriz. I could also put Iraola there for a top 4, that would be the way to go.”
Aduriz’s rise to greatness was unconventional. Twice the striker left and returned to Athletic before he reached his peak with the club. “He’s not had a simple career, he’s earned everything through hard work and being competitive, which gives much more merit to what he’s achieved,” said Gómez.
When asked about what the team will be like without Aduriz, Gómez admitted that things won’t be the same. However, he also pointed out that when other great players have left, the club has always been able to push forward.
“It wouldn’t be the same if it were any other player, but Athletic has many years of history and, fortunately, when it seems that things are getting difficult and that it’s going to fall because players are leaving, or taking a step to the side in the case of Aduriz, Athletic always has the means and whatever it takes to move forward in a good way. This is how it will continue to be in the future.”
Being forced to retire because of an injury isn’t the way that Aduriz wanted to end his career. The striker should have had the opportunity to play in the Copa del Rey final and ride La Gabarra, but Gómez explained that Aduriz has been in pain for a while and understands that retiring was the right decision.
“It’s unfair to have to make the decision this way with the option that he could have had. He’s had hip problems for a long time. It was clear that he made the best decision for himself. He’s the one who feels the pain and truly knows the situation that he’s in. He’s told us that he believes it’s time, that he’s been advised that in order to have a normal live, he should have surgery as soon as possible. It’s a very throughout and logical decision on his part. Aduriz is always going to be Aduriz. Even lame he can give a lot.”
When the Cup final takes place next season Aduriz won’t be in the squad. It shouldn’t be that way, though Gómez says it gives the team even more motivation to go out and win the title for their teammate.
“This is more good incentive for us to face the Cup final. It’s a great challenge and very important. The final won’t be until next season but I want to make it clear that every player that’s here right now is a part of this. I’m convinced that everything will turn out well and that we’re going to take out La Gabarra and I have no doubt that Adu should be at the top of La Gabarra. We will take it out and Aduriz will be on it.”
On a personal level, Gómez wanted to thank Aduriz for everything he’s done. Even though the outpouring of praise has been incredible, his legacy will only grow with time.
“It’s the year 2020, number 20, and being able to say goodbye with a title at Athletic was what he deserved. I’m very sorry that it had to be this way. I want to thank him, as a teammate and as a fan. Although we’re already talking about a legend, in time we will realize all that Adu is for Athletic.”
Gómez took a moment to reflect on the first time he trained with Aduriz and mentioned that his ability in the air was unbelievable. As a competitor, there’s no one better.
“What surprised me the most was putting in crosses and seeing how long he stayed in the air and strength he had on his shots. Above all, I saw his level of competitiveness, of always wanting to win in every training session. He’s the most competitive teammate I’ve ever had.”
Gómez’s fondness for Aduriz is special. As a teammate, and even as an opponent, Aduriz is respected as one of the best.
“Aduriz was a mixture of being competitive and a good person. It’s difficult to maintain that balance. There are players that we don’t know personally and we only judge by what we see on the field. But on the field, if you look at him objectively, we all want to have Aduriz by our side. If you know him from the locker room, even more.”
Despite announcing his retirement yesterday, Aduriz was at Lezama today to support his teammates while they trained. Even in the midst of needing hip replacement surgery Aritz Aduriz is still putting others first and wants to help the team in any way that he can.