Hodei Oleaga “The Best Option Was To Leave”
Seven years after joining Lezama, Hodei Oleaga has said goodbye to Athletic. Last month the goalkeeper terminated the final year of his contract and has since signed with local club Barakaldo where he will compete for a starting role. Oleaga’s exit came as no surprise with so many other great goalkeepers at Athletic and the 23-year-old admits that he needed to leave to continue his career.
“The deal was very good, but we decided that I had to go the other way, to think about other things,” Oleaga told Radio Marca Bilbao. “We made that decision and we hope it’s the right one.”
Last season Oleaga spent the year with Melilla CD where he played very well as the starter. In what was his first experience outside of the Basque Country, he says the move was good for his growth.
“I was far away, alone, and I learned and matured as a goalkeeper and as a person. I played everything and for that part it was very good, it was a plus. If you aren’t playing, there’s more in your head. It was a very nice experience. Nothing to do with Lezama, which is the best place for everything, but I was happy there and had support from the fans. Being at home with family is different.”
Oleaga loved his time at Lezama and sees it as a football academy like no other. However, leaving the club was necessary at this point in his career.
“In Lezama time is never wasted. What is learned there isn’t learned anywhere else. Lezama always brings out good groups of goalkeepers. The level of competition is very high and we believed that the best option was to leave and try to play minutes elsewhere and continue growing as a goalkeeper.”
Will Oleaga ever return to Athletic. “You never know,” he answered. “It’s the club that I’ve always been from, the club to which I’ve always belonged. To be called back to the first team would be gratifying. Unai (Simón) will always be there. We all knew he was a very good goalkeeper. With confidence and the experience he has with the first team he will still do much better.”
Having now signed with Barakaldo, Oleaga will be coached by Athletic legends Aitor Larrazabal and Gorka Iraizoz. This will be Iraizoz’s first year as a goalkeeper coach and Oleaga is exited to work with a player he grew up admiring.
“When I arrived at Lezama he was a coach and I worked very well with him. I’ve spoken wit him and he has given me his trust and that of Gorka (Iraizoz) and that of all of Barakaldo. I signed here to contribute and help the team. Being with Gorka, who I’ve seen my whole life, is gratifying. They’ve given me great confidence and I can’t ask for more.”
Oleaga’s time at Athletic may have come to an end, but he’s excited about the next challenge. “Football is situations, opportunities, and moments that you have to take advantage of, and more so as a goalkeeper,” he shared. “You have to take advantage of what comes, do your best, and then let the coach decide.” Now a Barakaldo player, Hodei Oleaga will compete against Bilbao Athletic in the upcoming season with the goal of earning promotion to the Second Division.