Yeray Alvarez has revealed his excitement at returning to action for Athletic Club after nine months on the sidelines.
The Basque defender returned to football in the 2-0 defeat to Girona at the weekend after recovering from cancer a second time.
His relapse came last summer whilst on international duty with the Spanish U21 side as medical examinations discovered an inflammation in the lymph glands and doctors were forced to put the talented centre-back into chemotherapy, meaning he missed his country’s European Championship campaign and a large part of the current season.
Upon his return, the youngster has revealed his delight, whilst speaking about his lowest points over the last year.
“This is the happiest moment of my life,” Yeray told radio station Cadena Ser.
“To make my return on Sunday after 260 days since my last Athletic appearance was special, the nervous feeling was like making my debut all over again.
“My lowest point was when I discovered the cancer was back when I was with the national team and I did cry about it.
“It was not only the hardest time for me but for my family, it was terrible to see my parents find out their 22-year-old son had cancer again.
“It was really fantastic to see my teammates with shaved heads, it really helped me through the tough times.”
Yeray’s return will provide a timely boost to Athletic, who are struggling to find consistency this season.
Íñigo Martínez’s debut for Athletic Bilbao ended in defeat on a cold, wet evening at the Montilivi. The Basque visitors had been undefeated since November. But, even the return of central defender Yeray after his fight with cancer was not enough to bring home the three points.
The match had hardly begun before the first goal arrived, courtesy of a penalty kick. Inside the first ten minutes, Pablo Maffeo was judged to have been fouled by Andoni Lopez. The referee judged that Lopez had pushed Maffeo at the far post when the Girona right back was running to get on the end of a good cross. Maffeo did seem to make the most of it in the wet conditions, but frustrated protests from Raul García fell on deaf ears. Uruguayan striker Cristhian Stuani easily converted from the spot.
Athletic Bilbao tried to bounce back. Five minutes after Stuani’s goal, Iñaki Williams had a great chance for the Basque visitors. His shot from range sailed just over the bar. The Spaniard could also have converted just before the end of the first half, but his left-footed shot bounced off the bar.
Apart from these two attempts, Girona largely controlled the match. Their second goal arrived in the 63rd minute, when Pere Pons intercepted Athletic’s pass, made a striding run forward and sent it wide to Portu. Stuani managed to get his head on the end of the Spaniard’s resulting cross, to increase his goal tally to 12 for the season.