Goodbye to Gento, the best left winger in the world, the one who stopped short like no one else



A friend has died, a person I knew personally in 1977. A man I admired as a child as a footballer. Excuse me for speaking in the first person, but personal, intimate memories accumulate, close, lived in the stadium and face to face with the best left winger in the world.

He has died with his white Real Madrid shirt on. “He always slept with her,” his relatives said today. This morning he got up at nine o’clock, felt bad and died instantly. He has not suffered. Fast, unstoppable, only God has stopped him.

His dribble, at full speed, was always a lethal solution, from 1953 to the seventies. to run, to overflow, to enter and to shoot with that cannon left handed! He was a unique player.

I’ve never seen a footballer run so fast with the ball glued to his feet. What said Styles, the woodcutter of the Manchester United, port stevedore and striker killer, what was impressive was not how he ran but how he stood on the corner of the band stepping on the ball while the side could not stop and crashed into the advertising. «Balls to Paco», Di Stéfano and Santamaría used to say when they had problems because the rival attacked. «You sent the ball to Paco and with his runs he threw the opposing team back and you breathed, he was unique».

At the beginning, very young, when he arrived at Real Madrid, he was a runaway colt, he ran and did not coordinate his movements well. passes with Di Stéfano and other teammates. But Alfred He always defended him: «Paco has to play». Di Stéfano saw in him an offensive gold mine, a groundbreaker on the left and a supplier of good crosses if he was taught. And boy did they teach him. His speed brought these problems to his teammates, who struggled to keep up with the Cantabrian, and it was also Héctor Rial, a teammate in attack, who instructed him to get the most out of his skills. He became the best left-handed winger on the planet.

Paco Gento celebrated his 88th birthday on October 21. He was born in 1933 in Guarnizo (Cantabria) and arrived at Real Madrid at the age of 19 to make history and win 24 titles, more than anyone in the entity’s history. During 18 seasons, in which he played 600 official matches and scored 182 goals, Gento became the only player in football history winner of six European Cups and earned a place among the best in this sport. In its spectacular record, along with the aforementioned six European Cups, there is an Intercontinental Cup, two Latin Cups, twelve Leagues, two Spanish Cups, and a Small World Cup. Coming from Racing de Santander, his Real Madrid debut took place on September 13, 1953 against Osasuna at the Santiago Bernabéu.

His physical and technical qualities led him to be the best left winger of all time. In recognition of his merits, from October 2016 is the honorary president of Real Madrid, taking over from another Real Madrid legend, his friend Alfredo Di Stéfano.

One of the best attacks in history

Francisco Gento López was called and after his start at Racing he developed his entire sports career at Real Madrid. When he retired he was the third top scorer in the history of Real Madrid, where he played eighteen seasons, only surpassed by his former teammates Alfredo Di Stéfano and Ferenc Puskás, all being members of the remembered “Real Madrid de Di Stéfano” or “Real Madrid of the five European Cups”, designated by UEFA as one of the best teams in history. He was also considered one of the best players of the 20th century according to the International Federation of Football History and Statistics, and was also the only Spaniard by birth included in said list of fifty players. Not surprisingly, he holds the record for being the player who has won the most European Cups with six, and the one with the most Championship titles of the League of Spain conquered, with twelve.

He was an absolute international with the Spanish team in 43 games. He participated in two World Cups, in the edition of Chile 1962 and in England 1966, and was part of the team won the first European Cup of Nations in Spain, current European Championship, in the 1964 edition.

Pioneer of a lineage of athletes

He was the pioneer of a lineage. He saw how his offspring were also dedicated to the practice of football, where Paco’s brothers, Julio and Toñín came to play in the First Division, and especially in Racing de Santander. Toñín managed to share locker room with his brother Paco at Real Madrid in the 1961-62 season, although Julio belonged to Plus Ultra, Real Madrid’s first affiliate.

The family saga would be continued with his soccer nephews Julio and Paco Llorente, the basketball players José Luis and Toñín Llorente, all of them linked to the different sports sections of the Real Madrid Club de Fútbol. A fourth generation of athletes in the Gento-Llorente family is made up of Marcos Llorente, son of Paco Llorente, a footballer, and basketball players Sergio Llorente and Juan Llorente, sons of José Luis Llorente.

Paco Gento was born in Guarnizo, belonging to the municipality of El Astillero. The son of a truck driver, he left school at the age of fourteen to help his father and take care of the cows they had on a small farm. He began playing at the age of 15, as a cadet at SD Nueva Montaña in 1948, a club where he combined soccer with athletics, thanks to which he would acquire the speed that would make him famous in the future, with the illusion of playing in the Santander Racing.1

Later he moved to the first regional category of Cantabria, signing for the Unión Club de El Astillero, and made his debut in the Third Division of Spain at the Rayo Cantabria Sports Society, which at that time was the subsidiary team of Real Santander, currently Real Racing Club de Santander.7​ This, which had managed to settle in the First Division of Spain and in which he finally landed thus fulfilling one of his childhood dreams,1​ in the 1952-53 season with which he would play only ten games of League in which he scored two goals, at the age of 20 joining the discipline of Real Madrid Club de Fútbol under the mandate of President Santiago Bernabéu.

After debut in the First Division on February 22 1953 against Barcelona at the old Campos de Sport, he joined the white club in the 1953-54 season, and would remain there for 18 years, after which he would retire from professional football and begin his career as a coach, where he would train, among other teams, Castilla, the first subsidiary of the white club, and its lower categories.

With the Madrid team would win twelve championships National League, the first in his debut year that would be the first won by the club in 20 years, where he was part of what has been considered one of the best strikers of all time in the history of football along with the Hungarian Ferenc Puskás, French Raymond Kopa and Spanish-Argentines Alfredo Di Stéfano and Héctor Rial, with whom he achieved the still unmatched feat of winning five consecutive European Cups, corresponding to the first five editions of the tournament, in 1955 -56, 1956-57, 1957-58, 1958-59, 1959-60, to which he would add one more in the 1965-66 season in the so-called “Madrid de los Yé-yé” made up mostly of national players, which helped him to become the only player in history to have won six European Cups.

He was regarded as the fastest winger of all time by various media and colleagues. What said, as we say, that Manchester United defender after confronting him: “Gento runs a lot, but the worst is not how he runs, the worst is how he stops.”

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