A Truly Remarkable Gesture: Etxeberria Signs To Play For Free

Jeff HarbertSenior Writer IOctober 3, 2008

In a time when money comes first, Athletico Bilbao’s Joseba Etxeberria has agreed to play out his final season for the club for free. The 31-year-old singed a one-year contract extension that will see him finish his career with the Los Cachorros.

Etxeberria joined the club at age 17 and has played for the club ever since. He is famed for his dribbling, pace and fierce shot, but will now be famed for much more than his skills on the football pitch.

While so many other footballers hold out on signing new contracts until they can force the club to pay the highest wages possible, Etxeberria has agreed to play for free.

Frank Lampard, Emmanuel Adebayor, Rio Ferdinand and many others need to take note! So many modern day footballers seem to only be concerned about making money, as I explained in my recently published article.

Yet Etxeberria, known as El Gallo (The Rooster) to Athletico Bilbao fans for his long neck, has shown the ultimate gesture to his club. The Athletico captain has been a major figure at the club since joining as a teenager and wants to thank his club for everything by playing his final season for free.

Etxeberria’s sacrifice to the club has not gone unnoticed and club president Fernando Garcia Macau was quick to praise the former Spanish international.

"From the club's standpoint, there are not words enough to thank such a gesture,” Macau said.

The Athletico Bilbao captain led the 1995 World Youth Championships in scoring and earned 53 caps for the Spanish National Team, scoring 12 goals and playing a part in the 1998 World Cup, Euro 2000 and Euro 2004.

Etxeberria admits he has always wanted to end his career at Athletico Bilbao, but claims he is not trying to set an example by agreeing to play out his final season for free.

"I wanted to do this gesture but never did I want to set a precedent."

Whether or not Etxeberria wanted to make an example out of his honorable decision, it is something every footballer should learn form.

Here’s to Joseba Etxeberria, who has shown that football is not all about money!

Cheers, Joseba…