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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.

Real Sociedad backtrack on plans to resume training

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Real Sociedad are doing a u-turn on their plans to allow individual players to return to practice at the club’s training facilities on Tuesday.

The Basque club released a statement on Saturday, indicating that its player were allowed to train at Zubieta as soon as Tuesday, if they were to train individually after undergoing a coronavirus test.

The club has since backtracked on their initial plans after receiving criticism on social media for their decision, which was going to make La Real the first La Liga side to resume training since the league’s suspension in March.

On Sunday, Sociedad reiterated that its player will continue training from home and that they never intended for the squad to prematurely return to normality. The club is determined to make sure that its players don’t come into close contact, as Spain remains in lockdown for at least four more weeks.

Real Sociedad’s statement said: “We want to remind everyone that Real Sociedad’s decision was to give first-team players the option to continue individual training at the Zubieta training ground.

“They were never going to do group training and each player could decide whether to train at home or the facility, always complying with the safety measures instructed by the health authorities.

“We are well aware of the responsibility we have and that’s why Real Sociedad is working on a plan for our athletes and employees to return to work that puts their health before any other consideration.”

Real Sociedad to become first La Liga team to resume training after coronavirus lockdown

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La Liga outfit Real Sociedad will resume training on Tuesday after being on lockdown for more than a month due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Spain’s top-flight has been on a hiatus since March following the Spanish government’s decision to halt professional sports across Spain.

The Basque club, in a statement released on Saturday, outlined a series of precautionary measures that will go into effect as soon as early next week.

Among some of those measures include players allowed to train together groups of two or three, with a coronavirus test upon arrival. Players, however, aren’t obliged to train out of Zubieta (La Real’s training center) and can continue training from home.

Real Sociedad, who last played on March 7 against Barcelona, released the following statement:

“Since the beginning of the current situation caused by Covid-19, all first-team players and those in other categories at Real Sociedad have been training from home due to the protocol established by the Football Direction and those responsible for the Zubieta facilities.

“For the last four weeks our first-team players have been in their homes carrying out the individual fitness programs given to each footballer. The individual fitness programs have been based principally on cardiovascular and metabolic work, which is why the decision was made to take the Zubieta exercise bikes to footballers’ homes and give them treadmills thanks to the loan from GO fit.”

“Additionally, the Real players have received other types of help (sanitary, medical, nutritional and emotional) which have aided them in complementing the individual plans,” the statement added.

“Once the government decides that non-essential activities can restart their work, first-team players will have the choice of continuing their individual workouts in Zubieta from Tuesday of next week. In no way will this work in Zubieta be group-based.

“Training will remain obligatory, as it is now. Every player will be able to decide to continue at home or in Zubieta.

“If they do decide for Zubieta, we will continue to follow the existing protocols, which will scrupulously respect the security measures agreed by health services, which means those players who do opt for Zubieta will do so in an individual, gradual manner.”

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.

Odegaard shines again as Real Sociedad take 1st leg lead

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It took a long while, but Martin Odegaard is delivering the goods.

The teen phenom whose recruitment carried a captive audience five years ago is now a 21-year-old proven playmaker in two leagues.

Odegaard scored again Thursday as Real Sociedad took a Copa Del Rey semifinal first-leg lead with a 2-1 win over second-tier Mirandes.

The second leg is March 5 in Castile and León, where Mirandes looks to make history as a Copa del Rey finalist from outside La Liga.

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Mikel Oyarzabal gave Real Sociedad a ninth-minute lead on Thursday before Matheus Aias leveled the score for Cinderella in the 39th. Odegaard found the match-winner in the 42nd.

That gives the Real Madrid loanee three goals and three assists in four tournament matches for the Txuri-urdinak.

Odegaard had already captured the attention of some of the world’s biggest clubs when he was called up by Norway at age 15. Barcelona was linked, and the kid said he loved Liverpool on a visit that came shortly after he hit up Old Trafford.

He eventually chose Real Madrid, debuting with the first team in 2014/15 but only making one more senior appearance in 2016/17 before heading on loan to Heerenveen in the Netherlands.

Odegaard showed glimpses of class there, but really took off with 11 goals and 12 assists for Vitesse Arnhem last season.

Now he has Real Sociedad on the brink of a first Copa del Rey final since 1988, collecting seven goals and eight assists in 24 matches.