Athletic Bilbao

Aritz Aduriz
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Athletic Bilbao hero Aduriz needs hip surgery, retires early

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Sad news out of Basque Country, where one of the ageless players of our time announced he’s stepping away from playing in a terribly bittersweet fashion.

Athletic Bilbao living legend Aritz Aduriz had planned to write the end of his playing career at the conclusion of this La Liga season with a historic Basque Derby in the Copa del Rey Final.

But doctors told the 39-year-old that he needs to get an artificial hip immediately to help his quality of life, marking an early end to the career of La Liga’s second-leading Spanish scorer this century. Only David Villa has scored more goals in Spain’s top flight.

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Aduriz shared an emotional message with fans (in full at bottom of this post), as he will require an artificial hip and be unable to put his own ending on his remarkable career. He asked fans not to lament his predicament given the many worse struggles around the world, especially the coronavirus pandemic.

Here is part of his statement, translated by Marca:

“Unfortunately, we are living through situations much more grim and painful; the pandemic that we are suffering from has left us with irreparable damage and we have to keep fighting it, together. Therefore, I don’t want you to worry about me, this is just an anecdote.

“Let’s forget about the finals we dreamt about, because we will have time to say goodbye. And yes, the time has come to say goodbye, and this is how the road ends for me – unforgettable and marvelous, from beginning to end. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”

Aduriz came joined Athletic’s reserve side in 2000 and joined the first team two years late. While he spent seasons with Valladolid, Mallorca, Valencia, and Burgos, he always came back to Athletic.

And boy, did he score. Aduriz struck double-digit goals in eight La Liga seasons, achieving the feat five times with Athletic, once with Valencia, and twice with Mallorca.

He finished with 219 goals and 63 assists in his career, 172 and 49 of those coming in 405 appearances for Athletic. Aduriz was a monster in Europe, too, especially the Europa League where he scored 28 times in 34 outings.

Capped 13 times by Spain and 13 more by the Basque national side, Aduriz could’ve sealed his career with a glorious Cup final but will instead rest on a heaping mound of laurels. His only other appearances in finals were a loss to Barcelona in the 2014-15 Copa del Rey and a vengeful Spanish Super Cup triumph over Barca the following season.

Even heated rivals Real Sociedad honored Aduriz honored the striker, tweeting, “We would have liked to say goodbye to you in the Cup Final of our dreams. Anyway, it has been a pleasure to have you for so many years. We wish you the best for your future.”

Athletic lit up its stadium to say “Thanks a lot” to its hero.

Athletic Bilbao wins to set up Basque derby in Copa del Rey final

Copa del Rey
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MADRID — For the first time in more than a century, a Basque derby will decide the Copa del Rey.

Athletic Bilbao reached the Copa final for the fourth time in 12 years despite a 2-1 loss at Granada on Thursday, advancing on away goals after a 2-2 aggregate score to set up a title match against Basque Country rival Real Sociedad.

It will be the first time the two teams play for the Copa title since Athletic beat Sociedad in 1910 in the deciding match of a three-team mini-tournament.

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Neither club has won the cup in more than 30 years, with Athletic’s last title coming in 1984 and Sociedad’s in 1987.

Sociedad defeated second-division club Mirandes 1-0 on Wednesday to advance 3-1 on aggregate.

Athletic won 1-0 in Bilbao but was down 2-0 on Thursday after second-half headers by Carlos Fernandez and German Sanchez. Yuri Berchiche scored the decisive away goal after a run into the area in the 81st to secure his team a spot in the April 18 final in Seville.

Athletic, which only fields players born or raised in the Basque region, is the second-most successful club in the Copa with 23 titles, behind Barcelona’s 30. Athletic lost to the Catalan club the last three times it reached the final – in 2009, 2012 and 2015.

Two-time champion Sociedad last made it to the final in 1988, a year after it won its second title. The first came in 1909.

Granada was trying to reach its second Copa final, and first since 1959, when it lost to Barcelona.

Athletic eliminated Barcelona 1-0 at home in the quarterfinals, while Sociedad ousted Real Madrid with a 4-3 win at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

It’s the first time in a decade neither Barcelona nor Madrid made it to the last four.

More shocks as Athletic Bilbao knocks Barcelona out of Copa del Rey

Barcelona
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The giants are falling in the Copa del Rey.

Inaki Williams scored in stoppage time to lead Athletic Bilbao past Barcelona in the Copa del Rey, hours after Real Sociedad knocked Real Madrid out of the tournament.

Athletic Bilbao has won the second-most Copa del Rey titles in Spanish history, with 23 wins. Barca has the most with 30.

It’s the latest setback of a troubling season for Barcelona, who has already changed managers and seen plenty of inner turmoil.

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Williams turned an Ibai Gomez cross past Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the third minute of second-half stoppage time to clinch a place in the semifinals with Real Sociedad, Granada, and Cinderella story Mirandes of the Segunda Division.

The Copa del Rey will not include an El Clasico rival for the first time since 2010, when Sevilla beat Atletico Madrid.

Barca was awarded five yellow cards on the day including one to Lionel Messi, who was stopped 1v1 by Unai Simon moments before Williams won it.

Quique Setien’s Barca is three points back of Real Madrid in the race for La Liga, seven points clear of third-place Getafe. The season’s second El Clasico comes March 1 at the Bernabeu.

Espanyol identify 12 fans who racially insulted player

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BARCELONA, Spain — Spanish club Espanyol says it has identified 12 fans who racially insulted an Athletic Bilbao player in the Spanish league last weekend.

Espanyol said on Monday in a statement that nine of the fans were club members and would face punishment that could include suspension or a full-time ban.

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It said a report of its analysis of the video images of Saturday’s game at RCDE Stadium were sent to authorities.

The club reiterated its “categorical condemnation of any displays of violence and racism.”

The fans made monkey noises directed at Athletic forward Inaki Williams, who is black. Television images showed Williams confronting the section of Espanyol fans who taunted him after he was substituted late in the game in Barcelona.

The Spanish league said it will seek a partial stadium closure for Espanyol and will raise the incident with the Spanish soccer federation’s competition committee, which handles disciplinary issues.

Bilbao’s Williams: ‘I suffered racist insults’ at Espanyol

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BARCELONA, Spain — Athletic Bilbao forward Inaki Williams says that he was a victim of racial abuse from fans while playing at Espanyol in a Spanish league game on Saturday.

Williams said after the 1-1 draw that “I suffered racist insults, something that no one wants to hear and has no place here.”

Williams, who is black, played 82 minutes of the match before being substituted.

“People should come to enjoy themselves, to help their team. This is a sport about friendship,” Williams said.