Hodei Oleaga “I Saw That I had Few Options At Athletic”
The termination of Hodei Oleaga’s contract a few weeks ago came as something of a surprise. Still just 23-years-old, the young goalkeeper had just come off of an impressive loan spell with Melilla and was expected to leave again in order to play regular minutes. However, with no clear path to the first team the Lezama graduate ultimately chose to look for a new club instead of spending another year on loan.
“Well, the goalkeeper position is more difficult,” Oleaga told Javier Beltrán of El Correo when asked why he didn’t simply go out on loan again. “There are very few seats and only one plays. It’s very rare that a substitute has minutes. You should look for those minutes and I preferred to do it by dissociating myself from Athletic in case we had another option.”
Oleaga had a good experience with Melilla and said the loan helped him grow as a player and personally. “By leaving home you learn everything,” he explained. “You mature as a person and as a goalkeeper. You aren’t close to your family and friends, those who always support you, and in this way you mature.”
Not long after Oleaga’s contract with Athletic was terminated, the goalkeeper quickly signed with neighbors Barakaldo. He explained that Barakaldo had already showed interest in taking him on loan and their desire to sign him was a key factor in making the move.
“I saw that I had few options at Athletic and as soon as we terminated my contract, looking at everything that there was, I believed that Barakaldo was a good option. What I wanted was to play. I know that I was going to go on loan if I stayed at Athletic, but without belonging to the club. Barakaldo loved me from the first moment, either as a long from Athletic or as a free agent. Both Larrazabal and Iraizoz showed a lot of interest. The club and I were both delighted.”
By joining Barakaldo, Oleaga will have the opportunity to train under Athletic legends Aitor Larrazabal and Gorka Iraizoz. Learning from Iraizoz will be special.
“It seemed like a very good option. He’s a goalkeeper that I saw at Athletic for a long time. We even got to train together on occasion when I was called up with other goalkeepers. It’s a pride that I can be trained by Gorka.”
Oleaga will reunite with fellow Lezama standouts like Aitor Seguín, Jurgi Oteo, and Jorge Bengoetxea who all spent time in the youth ranks at Athletic. “Barakaldo usually sign players who leave Lezama because they have quality,” said Oleaga with pride. “It’s very normal.”
There’s still a chance that at least one player from last season’s Bilbao Athletic will also sign with Barakaldo. Jon Rojo, Javier Murua, and Antonio Salado are all looking for new clubs are seeing their contracts expire. “The one I have the closest relationship with is Murua,” Oleaga added. “They are all making their own decisions. You need to find a team that really loves you and is betting on you.”
Will Oleaga ever return to Athletic? As a lifelong fan of the club he will always be open to the possibility, but for now he’s just focused on doing his best for Barakaldo.
“We’ll see. In the end you have to fight for it. If I can succeed and be a starter at Athletic then I’m clear about it, but if it’s with another team then it’s with another team. You have to work to be as high as possible.”
When asked about the current group of goalkeepers at Athletic, Oleaga praised Unai Simón but admitted that he doesn’t know if Jokin Ezkieta will stay or spend the year away on loan.
“Unai had a very good year. It’s clear that he will continue playing and then I don’t know. It depends on what the club wants. I don’t know what Ezkieta will do or if Herrerín will leave. Ander Iru training with the first team? In Lezama the goalkeepers are usually staggered. When one leaves another takes the position.”
Oleaga may not be the only goalkeeper to leave Athletic this summer. Iago Herrerín has also requested to depart the club and Oleaga shared that he can understand the veteran’s frustrations over not having minutes.
“Well, he has one more year on his contract. I can understand Iago. I have been in a position similar to his for many years, the role of a substitute where you want to go out and play. The second goalkeeper always wants to play. A goalkeeper who is doing well and is confident is difficult to unseat.”
Over the years Lezama has proven to be a goalkeeper factory and maybe even the best academy for goalkeepers in all of football. Hodei Oleaga has received incredible training over his seven years with the club, but just didn’t have a way to break into the first team. Now he will look to establish himself at Barakaldo with the opportunity to earn the starting role at Lasesarre.