Crerand pays tribute to 'lightning' Francisco Gento

Tuesday 18 January 2022 16:00

Manchester United's 1968 European Cup winner Paddy Crerand has paid tribute to the “great, great” Francisco Gento, Real Madrid's legendary winger who sadly passed away on Tuesday morning, aged 88.

‘Paco’ Gento was a six-time winner of the European Cup, lifting the iconic trophy on more occasions than any other player in the competition’s history. He also won 12 La Liga titles with Los Blancos in an 18-year career in which he made 600 appearances.

Crerand came up against Gento on several occasions while playing for Celtic and United. He offered his fond memories of his former opponent.

“It’s such a shame to hear that,” Paddy said.

“What a great, great player he was. He was lightning quick, a terrific player in maybe the best club side of all time.

Gento (right) was part of Real Madrid's all-conquering side of the 1950s and 1960s.

“Real Madrid won five European Cups in a row, they were incredible. Gento was so quick - by god he was quick - but intelligent too.

“I had the fortune of playing against him, but also watching him. I was at Hampden Park for the 1960 European Cup final. Real Madrid beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3. Do you know how many people were at that game? 127,000 at Hampden Park. Nearly 130,000 people, all because of Real Madrid. It was fantastic.”

Gento wore the no.11 shirt for Real Madrid, playing at outside-left. In the modern game, he would be considered a traditional winger, hugging the touchline and creating chances for those in the box.

He began his career with Racing Santander but made such an impression in one match against Real Madrid that the Spanish giants signed him three days later.

“When Celtic opened their floodlights, I think they played Wolves in their first game and then Real Madrid came to Celtic Park,” Crerand continued.

Gento scored against United in a friendly in 1959 and in the European Cup semi-final second leg in 1968.

“We didn’t talk to them after the match, really. We were in total awe of them. We were total kids compared to them, they were a very experienced team and we look at them like they were gods. And they were.

“At Manchester United, there was such a great respect for Real Madrid. They were one of the first clubs to come and play after the Munich Air Disaster, to help financially. So Gento would have played then, but also in the 1968 European Cup semi-final.

“Bill Foulkes would have had to defend against Gento then. Gento wasn’t tall, but he was lightning quick. That would have been some job.

“What a terrific player. It’s such a shame to hear of his passing.”

Everyone at Manchester United sends their condolences to Francisco's family and the supporters of Real Madrid.