by Tom Stewart
Born: San Salvador, El Salvador (13/3/58)
Clubs: Cadiz, Valladolid
International: El Salvador (62 Caps, 21 Goals)
A Player who Diego Maradona himself described as the 2nd best player of all time (after himself, obviously), I give to you Jorge Alberto Gonzalez Barillas aka El Mágico.
Born into modest means in San Salvador, Gonzalez made his name playing in the El Salvadorian top flight in 1975, it wasn’t long before he was becoming an integral part of the team that qualified for the 1982 World Cup.
Here, despite El Salvador losing every one of their group games, including a 10-1 loss to Hungary, Gonzalez impressed throughout, gaining him many admires from Europe. Even in that 10-1 loss he was still on top form, keeping the Hungarian goalkeeper busy all game.
Despite interest from bigger clubs such as Atletico Madrid, Gonzalez moved to provincial Andalusian club Cadiz.
It wasn’t long before he became a firm favourite at Cadiz, impressing fans with his dazzling skills. On less than perfect pitches and playing against opponents that seemed to think he had bullseyes on his knees, his dribbling ability was out of this world. Watch the video below and compare it to a certain Lionel Messi and there isn’t much difference (outlandish claim I know). The ball was almost stuck to his feet.
Because of his ability, Cadiz fans would often overlook his off-field discretions. Gonzalez was a notorious party animal. He would rarely train and would often turn up late to games after staying up until the early hours. His sleeping habits were also often brought into question as he casually slept with half of Cadiz on a regular basis.
During a tour of the US in 1984, Cadiz played against Barcelona who had a certain Mr. Maradona in their ranks. Diego was so impressed by the Cadiz playmaker that he became a fan for life. To this day he still regards Gonzalez as one of the greatest players of all time.
Later that year, Cadiz were relegated and despite interest from Paris St-Germain, Fiorentina and Sampdoria, he stayed at Cadiz. He was allowed so much freedom to do whatever he wanted that he had no reason to leave. However his party animal lifestyle was beginning to catch up with him and his performances started to go downhill. Tired of his antics, Cadiz manager Benito Joanet decided it was his time to go. He transfered to Valladolid.
However, his lifestyle was heavily controlled at his new club, and he didn’t like it one bit. He lasted just 9 games and quickly transferred back to Cadiz.
They were a bit more savvy this time, tying Gonzalez down to a contract that meant he was paid $700 for the games that he played, and nothing for the ones he missed. This proved to be a catalyst for what proved to be a successful time for Gonzalez, as his form was brilliant up until his departure from the club in 1991.
After this he returned to his native El Salvador, playing and coaching until 1999. In his homeland he is adored, he has earned the government’s highest honor, the Hijo Meritísimo and has the national stadium named in his honour. He is considered by many to be the greatest Central American player of all time
El Magico, ladies and gentlemen