Ibai Gómez (Bilbao, 1989), has been happy in Vitoria. "Coming here was the best sporting decision I've ever taken," he confesses through a video that he posted, as soon as his signing for Athletic becomes official. "I would choose again and again, Glorioso," he says in the three-minute recording in which he makes an emotional review of his two and a half seasons at Alavés. "In my heart there will always be an albiazul piece, but today I have to go home."
The footballer of the popular neighborhood of Santutxu, Bilbao, has grown since he decided to take the step and abandon the team of his dreams after a disastrous season, which fell into depression for not counting on the plans of Ernesto Valverde. He became a residual player and therefore accepted the Alavés offer. "This decision that I make now is the hardest that I have had to take," says hours before returning to dress in red and white.
But Athletic is his dream, like that of all children in Bilbao. Ibai lived football since childhood. His father, Mitxelo, was the idol of the team in his neighborhood, and became president. During 13 seasons he wore the red shirt of the Santutxu, played in the field of Mallona and was trained sometimes in the annexed land where the monument to the Liberals was located, raised after the Siege of Bilbao in the First Carlist War, planted there, in the corner of the driving range. As he was small and the bench seemed his natural habitat, Ibai started directing the smallest kids in his club. He did it for 14 seasons, until he went to Alavés. He has the soul of a coach.
When he made his debut with Athletic, he experienced a dream and a nightmare almost simultaneously. After scoring four goals with the subsidiary, Joaquín Caparrós took him to the field on October 17, 2010 against Zaragoza, in the 66th minute, to replace Gaizka Toquero. Two minutes and 38 seconds later, when trying a cut, the leg stuck in the grass and the knee jumped in a thousand pieces. He did not return until six months later. "Was very young. Possibly now I would have taken the recovery in another way, "he confesses.
But it was maturing. Marcelo Bielsa gave him a prominent role in his team, especially in European competition. His first goal came against Schalke 04, but the most important scored against Sporting Portugal in the first leg of the semifinals, in San Mamés, where he was the protagonist of the assistance to Fernando Llorente in the goal that qualified the Athletic for the final. With Valverde was losing prominence little by little. In his last campaign of rojiblanco only played five games.
He himself was aware of his decline. "I realized that I needed to be physically close to be able to perform." He put himself in the hands of physiotherapist José Vilariño. Already in the Alavés Adolfo Madrid, physical trainer of the Spanish rugby team and who also worked with Carolina Marín, was added to his work group. In addition, he began to accept the nutritional advice of Marcos Llorente's family. With Abelardo he has been the undisputed holder and has played all the League matches.
And he returns to Athletic, with 29 years, with a contract for three and a half seasons and without a rescission clause. He leaves a team in the Champions zone to help another in trouble, but it is his home.