21 October 2010
Paco Gento was a pioneer in opening the Real Madrid doors to footballers from Spain's northern region of Cantabria. Sergio Canales is the last player born in Santander to don the Madridista shirt. Fifty-eight years separate the two, but they still have plenty in common.
Gento joined Real Madrid from Racing at the age of 19, the same team and age as Canales. Both left-footed, the two also needed time to adjust to their new stomping grounds, but through hard work and dedication Gento, and now Canales, made waves throught the football community. On the day of his 77th birthday, the two met in the Board Room of the Santiago Bernabeu, where surrounded by nine European Cups, six of which were won by Gento, the veteran wished the youngster the best of luck in the days ahead with Real Madrid.
"I hope you win one of these," stated Gento, "With perseverance and dedication you can equal my six. You have the class needed." Responding to one of his childhood role models, Canales responded, "It is a real pleasure to meet you. At least one player from Cantabria played a role in winning each of these nine cups."
Once on the Bernabeu turf, Canales presented Gento with a traditional Cantabrian pastry. After blowing out the two number '7' candles, the veteran expressed his wish that "Canales wins many titles with Real Madrid just as I did. They then presented each other with signed footballs. "To Paco Gento with lots of affection. The best," read that presented by the current midfielder, while Gento's was personalized, "To the future best player of Real Madrid. With affection."