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Bilbao wow: Aritz Aduriz in striking form

In the form of his career at 35, Aritz Aduriz's brilliance at Athletic Club owes something to beach football; UEFA.com's Richard Martin plots the one-time cross-country skier's path to glory.

Aritz Aduriz celebrates his sixth group stage goal of the season
Aritz Aduriz celebrates his sixth group stage goal of the season ©Getty Images

Top scorer in the UEFA Europa League with seven goals, it seems that 35-year-old Aritz Aduriz is getting better with age. As he prepares to take on his old employers, Valencia, in the round of 16, UEFA.com gets the inside line on the powerful striker.

Born: 11/02/1981

• Spanish Super Cup: 2015

• Aduriz was born in San Sebastian, home of Athletic's rivals Real Sociedad, but never played for the txuri-urdin. His father-in-law, however, is a fierce La Real supporter, with Aduriz noting: "Every time I score against them, I have to have a word with him. He also has to deal with his friends making fun of him. That cannot be easy."

• Some of Aduriz's striking prowess is down to playing on San Sebastian's breathtaking beach, La Concha. "Everyone who played on La Concha toughened up quickly," he recalled. "You have to deal with so many things you do not get with artificial pitches: waterlogged surfaces, dry sand, the wind, the bounce of the ball. There is nothing like it."

• As a teenager, Aduriz played for Basque youth team Antiguoko, alongside Xabi Alonso, Mikel Arteta and Andoni Iraloa, but while his team-mates moved to professional clubs, he went to lowly Aurrera de Vitoria so he could pursue a degree in physical education. However, he later abandoned his studies when his playing career began to take off.

• The striker is in his third spell with Athletic, who he first joined aged 19; he rejoined the club in 2005 after a spell at Valladolid, then came back again in 2012 after playing for Mallorca and Valencia.

Aduriz in his pomp with Mallorca
Aduriz in his pomp with Mallorca©Getty Images

• Mallorca fans have never forgotten the 23 goals he scored in two seasons on the island; they notably chanted his name at San Moix after he struck against the troubled home side for Valencia. "It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up," said a stunned Aduriz, but his former Mallorca coach Gregorio Manzano was not surprised, remarking: "It is natural, because he is a great guy."

• Aduriz was pivotal to Athletic lifting the Spanish Super Cup this season – their first trophy in 31 years – scoring a second-half hat-trick in the 4-0 demolition of Barcelona in the first leg and grabbing the equaliser in the 1-1 draw at Camp Nou. He said: "It has been so long since the people of Bilbao have been able to celebrate anything. The people of two or three generations really deserve this."

• He turned 35 in February, but is having the best season of his life, hitting 30 goals in all competitions so far, beating his previous record of 26 strikes. "He just gets better with each year that passes," said Athletic coach Ernesto Valverde.

• Football is just one sport Aduriz has excelled at. As a child, he played pelota — a Basque take on squash — and was a keen surfer and tennis player. He also tried his hand at cross-country skiing, finishing runner-up in a national competition as a nine-year-old.

Aduriz during his only senior appearance for Spain
Aduriz during his only senior appearance for Spain©Getty Images

• The striker has played just 13 minutes of international football, coming on as a substitute in Spain's 3-1 win over Lithuania in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying. However, with more goals than any Spaniard in the Liga this season, he is staking his claim for a place in Spain's UEFA EURO 2016 squad, with Vicente del Bosque admitting he is in line for a return to the team.

• Despite being just 1.82m tall, aerial ability is what makes Aduriz so deadly; he has scored nine headers in all competitions this season, and last year scored a hat-trick of headers in a friendly win against Mönchengladbach. "I was never very tall but as a child I always liked going for headers and it is a case of practice, practice, practice," he said. "Often it is not about jumping very high but about getting to the highest place you know you can get to, and timing your jump."

Aritz Aduriz celebrates a goal for Valencia
Aritz Aduriz celebrates a goal for Valencia©Getty Images

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