Is Lezama a mass production factory for elite goalkeepers? Let's see: Aitor Fernández defends Levante's goal (29), Kepa Arrizabalaga (25) that of Chelsea, Álex Remiro (25) that of Real Sociedad and Unai Simón (23) that of Athletic. In recent years, Iago Herrerín (32) and Gorka Iraizoz (39) were starters in San Mamés and Jon Ander Serantes (30) in Leganés. What is the secret? «Iribar», answers Aitor Larrazabal, responsible for the rojiblanca quarry between 2011 and 2015. «In Lezama the reference of the Txopo has always been put to the goalkeepers. He has been the greatest and those who come from below grow up looking and working on his example. And I don't know if they have managed to look like him, but they can be first-class goalkeepers, ”adds the now Barakaldo coach.

The reference is emotional, of course, but also factual. Iribar was not only the best goalkeeper in Athletic history and its most emblematic footballer, but also a goalkeeper trainer for two decades. With him grew up in Lezama many of those who have subsequently been the coaches of the current marvelous litter: Aitor Iru, Juanjo Valencia, Imanol Etxeberria, Iñaki Lafuente ... «I had Iribar as a trainer for five years and learned a lot from him, both technically and what Athletic is, its philosophy, its values ​​... All of this, added to my own experience as an Athletic goalkeeper, I have been able to transmit later to the kids I have trained, "says Etxeberria, owner of the San Mamés goal between 1996 and 2000.

As a result of the work done for many years, Lezama now boasts the most expensive goalkeeper in football history (Kepa), the one who makes the most stops in the League (Aitor), the third least goals scored in the championship (Simón) and the one who has led to Real to its first final in three decades (Remiro). They are the grandchildren of Iribar and especially of his legacy, since Txopo managed to make the position of goalkeeper considered sacred in Athletic and that all the work of the youth team is faithful to that conviction. «In Lezama there are many goalkeeper coaches to cover the needs of grassroots football, something that does not happen in all quarries. In other clubs, you find yourself on the highest steps to less worked kids and with enough deficiencies because they have skipped many steps. In Athletic, from a very young age they are given specific training and that in the long run is differential », explains Etxeberria.

Circumstances have caused whoever inherits Athletic's '1' to be the youngest of the fifth. Aitor had to emigrate to progress and succeed, Kepa did not resist the temptation of Chelsea and Remiro felt that the Real trusted him more. In a crazy summer, that of 2018, Simón spent two weeks as fourth goalkeeper, on loan at Elche, to start.

«It was clear to me since I was a cadet that I would be a First goalkeeper, although I didn't know if it was for Athletic, because I had Kepa and Remiro ahead of me. I'm glad it's him: he's a good person, a good student and has a very positive environment that has helped him manage his career naturally, "says Larrazabal of him, and Etxeberria agrees:" I loved training him. He absorbed all the advice and corrections, always with an attitude of learning and discipline. He has everything to be a great ». Today, Iribar's fourth grandson has one of those games before him, in San Mamés against Real Madrid, that define a goalkeeper.

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