Ibai Gomez leaves Alaves to make emotional return to Athletic Bilbao

Ibai Gomez makes emotional return to Athletic Bilbao as he gives up Alaves’ Champions League chase to help his former club in fight against relegation

  • Winger Ibai Gomez has rejoined Athletic Bilbao from Alaves on a deal until 2022
  • He has swapped a shot at Champions League football for a relegation battle
  • The 29-year-old spent six years in the Bilbao first team and wants to help them 
  • Athletic can only sign Basque players as they look to get away from danger
  • Gomez admitted fans may not ‘share his thinking’ after the surprising switch 

Richard Martin, Reuters

Spanish winger Ibai Gomez has taken the surprising decision to leave high-flying La Liga side Alaves to return to struggling Athletic Bilbao.

The 29-year-old, who joined Alaves from Bilbao in 2016 after six years in the first team, has swapped a push for Champions League football for a relegation dog-fight.

Athletic are currently 17th in La Liga and only two points outside the bottom three as they look to avoid relegation with a strict transfer policy governing their business this month.

Ibai Gomez pulls an Athletic Bilbao shirt out his draw during an emotional Instagram video

Ibai Gomez pulls an Athletic Bilbao shirt out his draw during an emotional Instagram video

The winger revealed his decision to leave Alaves and return to his former club on Thursday

The winger revealed his decision to leave Alaves and return to his former club on Thursday

The club only sign players from Spain’s Basque Country – and the French equivalent – which has left them looking at a number of former players in January.

Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera, Tottenham striker Fernando Llorente and Bayern Munich’s Javi Martinez are all on their shortlist.

Gomez opted to make the switch despite helping Alaves climb above Real Madrid and into fourth place in La Liga as they chase an unlikely spot at Europe’s top table.

He has penned a three-and-a-half year contract with Athletic, who are the only team apart from Barcelona and Real who have never been relegated from La Liga.

Gomez helped Alaves to fourth place in La Liga but he has decided to enter a relegation fight

Gomez helped Alaves to fourth place in La Liga but he has decided to enter a relegation fight

In a video posted to social media, Gomez puts his Alaves shirt away and grabs a Bilbao one

In a video posted to social media, Gomez puts his Alaves shirt away and grabs a Bilbao one

‘I know many people will not understand this decision and will not share my thinking,’ Gomez said in a video released on social media which appeared to be a nod to Antoine Griezmann’s ‘The Decision’ documentary.

He added: ‘I thank Alaves for everything, I will always have the club in my heart, but today it’s time to return home.’

Speaking on Wednesday, Bilbao sporting director Rafael Alkorta told Spanish radio station Cadena Ser that he would get working on deals for Gomez, Herrera, Llorente and Martinez soon.

‘We are interested in Javi Martinez, Ibai Gomez, Ander Herrera, Fernando Llorente… we are interested in all of them,’ he said.

‘Any player who can represent Athletic (through their Basque roots) will interest us and players in that quality bracket interest us, so yes.

‘We are aware none of these deals would be easy but we are interested in exploring the possibilities of what we can do.

‘We have not made any moves yet but we will get to work this week and get going on these fronts.’

 


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