Honours to Paco Gento

The Cantabrian player won six European Cups from Real Madrid's left wing, he arrived at the club at the age of 20 under the guidance of Santiago Bernabéu
Francisco Gento

PHOTO/AFP  -   Francisco Gento

That 22 February 1953 was the first day of the rest of Francisco Gento López's life. It was his sporting debut with Racing Santander at the Campos de Sport against Barcelona, the team he would play just 10 league games for before Santiago Bernabéu took notice of a left winger who had been born to wear the white shirt. 

Son of a lorry driver. One of the youngsters who were caught at birth during the Civil War. He dropped out of school to help his father and started playing football for Nueva Montaña while athletics turned him into the speedy winger he would become years later. 

From Astillero to Rayo Cantabria, a subsidiary of Racing Santander, until La Galerna del Cantábrico headed for Madrid, to Chamartín, under the guidance of Don Santiago. Fate would bring him 600 games in white, six European Cups, 12 leagues, 182 goals and 43 international caps. 

From 1955 to 1960, Gento joined Di Stéfano, Puskas, Kopa and Rial in conquering Europe with the Real Madrid colours. He started the finals of the first six finals of the tournament and scored two goals. The first against Fiorentina in Real Madrid's second trophy at the newly named Santiago Bernabéu stadium. The only time Real Madrid have played the European Cup final at their home stadium. In 1958 he scored the goal that took the final against Milan to extra time at the Heysel Stadium (Brussels). 

Gento played in as many as eight European finals and is one of the few who knows what it is like to lose that title. In 1962 against Benfica in Amsterdam after a 5-3 win for the Portuguese and the following 1964 against Inter Milan at the Praterstadion in Vienna. 

But he also revived his team to Old Continent glory in 1966 when he won the title on home soil in a final against Partizan that a Real Madrid team without foreigners won 2-1 at Old Trafford (Manchester).

Gento was recognised by world football when he was part of the FIFA squad that played against England in the centenary of the English FA in 1963. 

With the Spanish national team, Gento made 43 appearances and played in two World Cup final phases in Chile in 1962 and England in 1966. He made his debut at the Bernabéu against England in 1955 and his last appearance was in La Línea de la Concepción (Cádiz) in 1970 against Finland. 

Like Di Stéfano, Gento sat on the bench after hanging up his boots. In addition to Castilla, he coached Castellón, Palencia and Granada in the Second Division. The experiences did not go well and he ended up as coach of the Cantabrian national team in 1997. 

The disappointment of the Second Division came when Gento was given a six-match ban for tripping the referee in Palencia's home loss to Pontevedra. It was a very tense match which also ended with the president being suspended for assaulting the referee. 

Following the death of Alfredo di Stéfano the Real Madrid General Assembly named Paco Gento honorary president of the club in 2016. 

Real Madrid bids farewell to a legend. To a player who was not as important as Di Stéfano, but who looked after the club's laurels. As an English defender once said, "Gento runs a lot, but the worst thing is not how he runs, the worst thing is how he stops".