Throwback Thursdays: The Butcher of Bilbao


Heading into an early season clash with Barcelona on 24 September 1983, Athletic Bilbao's Andoni Goikoetxea already had a fearsome reputation as an uncompromising defender.

Born in Alonsotegi, in the Basque region of Biscay, Goikoetxea began his professional career with Athletic in 1974. The club, which adheres to a strict policy of only registering Basque players, enjoyed a golden period in their history under coach Javier Clemente in the early 1980's.

With a squad built around Goikoetxea, José María Nuñez, José Ramón Gallego, Dani, Estanislao Argote and  Andoni Zubizarreta, Clemente led the side to a La Liga title in 1983.



While players like Argote provided the craft and Dani the goals, there was no mistaking the role of Goikoetxea in the squad. His ferocious tackling effectively thwarted most attacks on Athletic's goal and unnerved many an opposition player.

After their title win in 1983, one of the sides that was expected to challenge them in La Liga the following season was a resurgent Barcelona who featured a young Diego Maradona in their ranks.

Goikoetxea already had a bit of 'previous' with Barcelona after severely damaging their talented midfield maestro Bernd Schuster's knee with a vicious challenge in 1981 that almost ended the West German's career.

With Barcelona already up by two goals in this late September encounter, and Maradona putting on a masterclass, midway through the second half the man nicknamed "The Butcher of Bilbao" struck.

After Maradona turned his marker and accelerated towards goal. Goikoetxea cynically scythed into him from behind. It was a brutal and nasty lunge that wasn't so much a tackle, but an outright assault.



After the Butcher's lunge, the Argentinian lay on the pitch screaming "It's broken, it's broken",with his ankle ligaments shredded. He would need a pin inserted in his ankle to keep it together and aid in his recovery.

Goikoetxea, as villains often do, protested his innocence and said that he never meant to hurt Maradona, but he would later put the boots he used to destroy the South American's ankle in a glass case to display at his home.

Despite Barcelona winning this particular encounter 4-0, Maradona would miss three months with his injured ankle, while Athletic went on to defend their La Liga crown.

The clubs would go through another contentious meeting later that season, when they faced off in the Copa del Rey Final at the Bernabeu. Backed by a largely anti-Barca crowd, Athletic prevailed 1-0 in an ill-tempered affair that completed their domestic double.

At the final whistle, Maradona, who was bleeding from a leg wound he later claimed had been given to him by Goikoetxea, reacted to taunting from the crowd and Athletic's Sola by headbutting the defender in the face.

This kicked off a massive brawl between the two sides with players throwing punches and launching kung-fu kicks at each other. A portion of the crowd also made it onto the pitch and joined in the carnage.



The furor caused by the incident, and his perceived lack of protection by Spanish referees, became a key factor in Maradona's move to Serie A's Napoli in the summer of 1984.



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