During his career, the aggressive central defender (dubbed "The butcher from Bilbao") played mainly for Athletic Bilbao, also having been a Spain and Euskadi XI international. Among the followers of his main club, he was also known as El Gigante de Alonsotegui (The Giant of Alonsotegui).
Having gained nearly 40 caps for Spain in the 1980s, Goikoetxea represented the country in one World Cup and one European Championship.
Born in Alonsotegi, Biscay, Goikoetxea began playing football with local Arbuyo before joining Athletic Bilbao in 1973 where, after starting out at the reserve side, he soon established himself in the senior team squad. He scored four La Liga goals in 27 games in his debut season, but played a lesser role in the following three years with only 24 appearances combined.
During the 1980s, along with Dani, José Ramón Gallego, José Núñez, Manuel Sarabia and Andoni Zubizarreta, Goiko was a prominent member of the successful Bilbao side coached by Javier Clemente. In 1984 the Basque club renewed its league title, also achieving the double (league and Copa del Rey) in that year.
On 24 September 1983, Goikoetxea achieved notoriety for a foul on Diego Maradona described as "one of the most brutal fouls ever delivered in the history of Spanish football" in a league match at the Camp Nou, taking out the Argentine from behind and breaking his ankle. Maradona compared the sound he heard to that of wood breaking and, in the aftermath, English journalist Edward Owen coined the phrase "Butcher of Bilbao" to describe Goikotxea, a nickname which remained attached him for the rest of his career. Maradona's compatriot César Luis Menotti, who was the coach of Barcelona at the time, accused the Spaniard of "belonging to a 'race of anti-footballers'" and called for a lifelong ban; he was served a ten-match ban by the Royal Spanish Football Federation. It was later reported he kept "the boot he had used to destroy...(Maradona's) ankle ligaments" at home in a glass case.
Two seasons previous to this incident, Goikoetxea had also severely injured Barcelona midfielder Bernd Schuster when the latter played with the Catalans, leaving him with a serious right knee injury from which the German never fully recovered. When the two teams met in the 1984 Cup final in May, the match ended 1–0 for Athletic and with a mass brawl on the pitch, and Goikoetxea connected with a high kick to Maradona's chest; he was initially banned for 18 games for his actions, but the suspension was later reduced to seven.
After three years with Atlético Madrid where he featured sparingly, Goikoetxea retired at almost 34 after appearing in 369 official matches for Athletic, netting 44 goals.
Goikoetxea played 39 times for Spain, making his debut against Holland on 16 February 1983. He represented the nation at both UEFA Euro 1984 and the 1986 FIFA World Cup; during the latter competition he scored one of his four international goals in the game against Denmark, in a round-of-16 5–1 triumph – all remaining four were scored by Emilio Butragueño.
Goikoetxea also played two games for the Basque Country national football team, in 1979 and 1988.
Goikoetxea became a coach two years after retiring, starting to work at club level in 1996 and going on to be in charge of UD Salamanca (twice), SD Compostela, CD Numancia (two spells), Racing de Santander and Rayo Vallecano. In 1996–97 he guided Salamanca to a top flight promotion, after finishing second; he was also assistant of the Spanish national team to former club boss Clemente, during the World Cup held in the United States in 1994.
In the 2007 summer Goikoetxea joined Alicante-based Hércules CF in the second division, being released at the season's end after being suspended by the club for implying its internal structures "stank". In late February 2013 he was appointed coach of Equatorial Guinea, being sacked in January 2015 just three weeks before the start of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations due to poor performance in friendlies, which included a loss to a lower league club in Portugal.
Goikoetxea was notorious for his aggressive style of play, not least because of the two heavy fouls (see Maradona foul) on Maradona and Schuster which earned him the nickname "Butcher of Bilbao". In 2007, English newspaper The Times named him the "hardest defender of all times".Athletic Bilbao
La Liga: 1982–83, 1983–84
Copa del Rey: 1983–84
Supercopa de España: 1984
UEFA European Championship: Runner-up 1984
UEFA European Under-21 Championship: Runner-up 1996; Third-place 1994