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Paco Gento dies, the sixth speed of Real Madrid

Prudent and simple. Extremely shy. A man of few words, with a strong character, sarcastic and endearing in short distances. Able to pick up the phone at home and when asked about him, change his tone of voice to conclude with a laconic “he's not home, he's walking the dog.” This is how Francisco Gento, born in Guarnizo (Cantabria) in 1933 and died this Tuesday in Madrid at the age of 88, was with great brushstrokes. The Spaniard, one of the most successful footballers in the history of football, never boasted about anything.

Nor of his six European Cups, although no other footballer has won as many as him; nor of his 12 Leagues, also a personal and non-transferable brand that will be very difficult to overcome by those who come after him and even more so after the departure of Messi (10) from the Spanish championship.

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The great night of Gento

“I'm not one of those who stick out their chests, I never did. I am not very stiff in stature and character”, he pointed out when asked about his achievements. Due to the strength that the Spanish League always had, I would say that it is more difficult to win those 12 trophies than the six European Cups, but I am as proud of one thing as another”. It is not for less, only Real Madrid (13) and Milan (7) accumulate more orejonas that he in a private capacity. Liverpool and Bayern have the same.

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The life and career of Paco Gento , in pictures

For his fellow sufferers he was always Paco, and as Amancio Amaro says, terribly moved by his loss, “he was a good man, our great captain. I say, I command, but without saying it, without it being noticed. When all the greats left, he stayed to educate those of us who came from what Real Madrid was and with him as captain we won the Sixth”.

He never cared to spend many years in Di Stéfano's shadow. Paco felt true admiration for his partner and defined him gracefully. “He had a very bad milk, but he was a hell of a guy and he was the best footballer I've played with and that I could have had against”, said of La Saeta. They arrived together at Real Madrid in 1953 and shared a dressing room for 11 seasons, until Alfredo was fired and went to Espanyol. He continued another seven courses at the white club.

Gento never forgot that at the end of the first season, when Santiago Bernabéu wanted to loan him out or transfer him to Osasuna because he had not performed as expected Of him, Di Stéfano appeared in the office and told the president: “Gento does not touch, he has to continue here and he will learn. It has innate conditions”. And he stayed 18 seasons.

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Real Madrid's tribute to the club's legend

Raymond Kopa, José Héctor Rial, Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas and Paco Gento, at the Santiago Bernabéu in 1977 with the six European Cups.

Photo:

GIANNI FERRARI

| Video : REAL MADRID

His beginnings at Real Madrid were not easy. He arrived at the age of 19 from Racing de Santander, with whom he had already made his debut in the First Division. The signing of his contract in the Cantabrian capital was an odyssey. “I signed in a garage secretly. Racing fans wanted to hit the Real Madrid envoy, a certain Bustamante. They chased us all over the city. They didn't want me to leave at all. We were scared there, stuck in a car with the contracts up and down”.

Lived in a boarding house

He also had a bad time in his first months in Madrid. The capital was too big for him. He lived in a boarding house: “The city distressed me because of its grandeur,” he said. Besides, he didn't feel loved. “One of the worst days of my life was spent in the stadium. I was in the stands, because that day I didn't play, and a fan, in front of me, started messing with 11. I thought it was me. 'This Gento is so bad, he always does the same thing. Let's see if they remove it at once. I don't know what they put it for…'. And all loudly. And I was there, sitting next to him, not saying anything. I went home very sad. They thought he was bad even when he wasn't playing”.

But the 11 really learned fast. Yours. The sixth. This is how he described his game. “I always liked football and I learned from everyone. If Di Stéfano hit it with a heel, I would try. If Rial gave me a measured pass, I tried it too. I dared to make walls with them. I had the speed from the factory. I caught the ball, ran and when I looked back the others were coming through the center of the field and I was already in the goal. With the left he had a spectacular hit. What I learned was to brake and that ended up being my best weapon. He was going at full speed and suddenly he stepped on the ball and the defender passed by and crashed into the fence. Many times I felt sorry for them. When they got to know me, many times they came after me, but I was smart and jumped when I heard them coming, it was like a ringing in my ear, but sometimes they hunted me, of course”.

From memory, put to work, chatting with his former teammates at the local veterans of the club, he always had an anecdote to remember. “As far as I remember I was only expelled twice. Both in the north, in Bilbao and San Sebastián. There they flooded the fields for us so that we could not run. It didn't rain at night in the city, but it did in the fields. The first red card was in San Mamés, Marquitos was arguing with the referee and I walked past him and told him: 'Send him to fuck off'. The second was in Atotxa, Irulegui, who was marking me, he was shaking me well, I turned around and hit him. Then I apologized”.

The Node immortalized his runs down the flank and keeps alive the black and white images of almost all his triumphs, especially the European Cups. For Gento the best was always the third, the one that Real Madrid beat Milan in Brussels (1957-58). “I scored the winning goal in the 107th minute of extra time. I remember that Di Stéfano told me that they were all very tired, that only I could win that game. The first thing I thought was that he wanted to kill me, but it was true that I felt fine. One of my best virtues was resistance”.

I also had a special memory for the sixth, already with the ye-yés. “He was the grandfather of the team. All Spanish. No one considered us favorites anymore and we got into the final and won it. It was when the younger ones put on their wigs as if they were the Beatles and put me in the middle of the photograph”.

His long professional career had all kinds of individual rewards, in addition to the 23 titles won with Real Madrid. The most important at the international level was being part of the rest of the world team in the match in which FIFA celebrated its centenary. It was at Wembley against England (10-23-1963). Two days later he turned 30. The forward of that team was priceless: Kopa, Law, Di Stéfano, Eusebio (Puskas) and Gento.

From his club he received the prestigious Laureate (1971) which was a great emotion for him because the players who have it can be counted on the fingers of his hands, and up to three tributes. An unprecedented scenario in history. The first being still a player (1965); the second a year after retiring (1972) where he scored his last goal with the white shirt from a penalty and the third as honorary president, in 2007, when he was 74 years old.

44 games with Spain

Among so many pleasant memories, Paco Gento used to shake his head and change his pace when he had to review his career in the Spanish team. Although many fewer games were played in those days, the 44 he added (six goals) always seemed like little to him. He bit his tongue when talking about what happened in the final phase of the 1964 European Championship, which his teammates won at the Bernabéu against the USSR. He had been part of the team in the qualifying phase, but José Villalonga, who had been his coach at Real Madrid, did not select him for the final phase, arguing that he was coming out of injury. He did play in the 1962 World Cups in Chile and 1966 in England.

Once he retired, he tried to stay linked to football as a coach, but it was not his true vocation. He killed the bug in Castellón, in Palencia, to lend a hand to his brothers, and Granada… but the sufferings on the bench invited him to leave it soon and return to Real Madrid in other technical matters with less dependence on results. In December 2015 he was appointed honorary president of Real Madrid, taking over the position of his brother

Alfredo di Stéfano.

In his attempt to remain anonymous as much as possible, Gento preferred to go to his seat in the stadium rather than to the box. He preferred the company of his granddaughter and walking down from his house, not far from the Santiago Bernabéu. He explained it in his own way. “Football has been everything in my life. Sometimes I wake up and see myself playing soccer. I dream that I am playing the European Cup. I live from my memories. It's true. My father, who had been a soccer player, midfielder at the Cultural de Guarnizo, did not want me to be and. We had our fights. He wanted me to stay in the fields milking the cows and feeding the cattle. He would get angry when he went to play… but I would go whenever I could”.

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