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Five-star Aduriz defies the years to earn Spain recall

Reuters
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2   //    04 Nov 2016, 22:12 IST
Football Soccer - Athletic Bilbao v KRC Genk - UEFA Europa League Group Stage - Group F - San Mames, Bilbao, Spain - 03/11/16 - Athletic Bilbao's Aritz Aduriz reacts. REUTERS/Vincent West
Football Soccer - Athletic Bilbao v KRC Genk - UEFA Europa League Group Stage - Group F - San Mames, Bilbao, Spain - 03/11/16 - Athletic Bilbao's Aritz Aduriz reacts. REUTERS/Vincent West

MADRID (Reuters) - Five-star goalscorer Aritz Aduriz is back in the Spanish national squad, defying his 35 years and becoming more prolific by the year as he continues to inspire his Athletic Bilbao team mates.

Aduriz was the talk of Spanish football on Friday after his extraordinary feat in the San Mames stadium the night before when he scored all five goals in Athletic's 5-3 victory over Genk in the Europa League.

The evergreen striker's reward was a place back in the national squad, included for the first time by coach Julen Lopetegui.

The new Spain boss was as impressed as everyone else by Aduriz's achievement in becoming Athletic's all-time top scorer in Europe with 21 goals, overtaking Fernando Llorente's 16.

Yet he reckoned he had already made up his mind before his nap hand of goals about bringing the nine-times capped Aduriz back into the fold.

"He is doing very well and he can help us," Lopetegui said.

He has found, like so many coaches before him, that the San Sebastian-born Aduriz is a hugely dependable figure, a man who has netted over 240 goals in 17 years in the Spanish game, but Thursday's heroics were something quite out of the ordinary.

"We are fortunate to have witnessed this and to be able to say in the future that I was there that day," Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde enthused.

Aduriz, 10th in Bilbao's list of all-time top scorers with 131 goals, was, though, typically self-effacing about his feat.

"You don't score five goals every day," he conceded, "but I have to thank my team mates. They do the work and I finish it off."

Aduriz's strength is his aerial prowess and that earned him a recall to Spain's Euro 2016 squad even though he had collected just two caps and scored one goal for his country heading into the tournament in France.

Yet he had merited his selection, coming on as a substitute in three games in France, by scoring a career-high 33 goals in 44 appearances for Athletic last season.

"It's a luxury to have him as a team mate and an example for everyone - especially for the boys that are coming through the ranks," Athletic right back Oscar De Marcos told Cadena Ser radio.

A youth-team product of Athletic himself, Aduriz had spells with lower division sides and is now in his third stint with the Basque club since returning in 2012 from Valencia.

Behind Llorente in the pecking order, Aduriz left Athletic in 2008 after just 60 La Liga starts and 22 goals in three seasons at the club but he continued to score wherever he roamed.

He netted 23 goals for Mallorca in the next two seasons before landing in Valencia where, even though Roberto Soldado was the preferred attacker and Aduriz was often on the bench, he still managed 23 goals in two campaigns.

Aduriz scored 18 in each of his first two seasons back in Bilbao before making a major impact in the 2014-15 campaign with 26 goals. He has started eight La Liga games this season and scored five.

"Aduriz has a virtue," Lopetegui told reporters. "He maintains his physical form and each time does better."

(Reporting by Adriana Garcia and Ian Chadband, editing by Ed Osmond)

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