It couldn’t be more or seem less. Paco Gento, an all-time great on a soccer field, would have paid money to be an anonymous citizen. It was never about you yourself and I didn’t even know the meaning of glamour. It was impossible to find coherence between the greatness of his career and the simplicity of his behavior. Unattainable at both ends.
It is not unreasonable to equate his beginnings with those of this Vinicius, who little by little was finding the game and, suddenly, the goal. Paco was a bullet, but with the fans against him until he began to add things to his privileged nature. He was fast, he was coordinated, he was resistant, he was intelligent… Perhaps it is enough to remember that the genes that fell from him created a saga of elite athletes.
In football, speed is a weapon of imbalance and, rising above it, he arrived at Real Madrid. But due to the contact with world-class talents, his football was enriched. To the speed he added a dry brake that left his markers spinning. Over time, in addition to a great ball hit, his game was adorned with feints, walls and heel strikes. They say that all this together raised the Bernabéu from its seats. That vibrating left-hander, who for almost two decades made a furrow on Madrid’s left wing, became a legend for her game and her numbers.
I got to know him better when we shared time when he was an ambassador and I was a Real Madrid executive. I was always surprised by the nature of their concerns. She could get on a plane, rush to put her luggage in the trunk, and sit down with a sigh of relief:
“What’s up, Paco?” -was asking.
—Nothing, I slept terrible thinking that the suitcase was not going to fit me.
Or being in Germany, at the official lunch with the directors of Bayern Munich and seeing Paco with a lost look, ask him, again:
“What’s up, Paco?”
-Any. I remember my dog, who walked me to the door crying when I was leaving.
I celebrated those things for him: “Finally a human being,” I told him. Indeed, a discreet, humble and friendly human being who, when he had to make a trip impersonating Di Stéfano, introduced himself as “Paco Gento, Alfredo’s hat”. He had so little idea of his size that he was unaware that if he, with his 12 league titles and his six European Cups, defined himself as a hat, he would turn the rest of us into insignificant little calves.
How difficult it is always to explain to young people the superlative class of players of other times. There is a phrase that we are passing from generation to generation: “That was football before.” A way to reduce the past, as if “true” football had been born with us. But neither the present is unbeatable nor was every past time better. Each player is the son of the difficulties that touch him and I have no doubt that those heroes would make the same differences today that they made yesterday.
Paco Gento won what nobody came back nor, possibly, will win again. When his game matured, he unbalanced with an impressive style that fascinated Real Madrid. So he was one of those who set fire to the history of a club that is based on triumphs and spectacle. He left with a glorious past, the exciting memory left by good men and a wonderful family. Unattainable in everything, Galerna. Rest in peace.
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