Known as the “Greatest Who Never Was”, Jorge “el Magico” Gonzalez is considered to be the best soccer player to ever come out of Central America. Nicknamed “el Magico”, or “the magician”, for his ability to create incredible magic with a simple soccer ball. His speed and unstoppable dribbling skills were simply devastating for his opponents who were left ridiculed by the long haired forward.
Born in El Salvador, Gonzalez made a name for himself playing locally for CD FAS of Santa Ana. It was during his 5 years with FAS where he began flourishing his talent and began amazing fans all over the country. Gonzalez also helped his native El Salvador qualify for the 1982 World Cup in Spain. Although the central american team was historically defeated, “el Magico” demonstrated his unbelievable talent. After the World Cup, he signed with second division Cádiz CF.
Gonzalez quickly fell in love with the city and the fans of Cádiz. He spent 9 glorious years with the spanish team scoring 58 goals. As he continued to get more recognized, he began receiving offers from better teams but he rejected transfers because he wanted to stay in Cádiz for “the fresh fish”.
Not really known for being a killer goalscorer, his dribbling and skill moves were jaw-dropping. When we hear great dribblers, we tend to think Maradona, Messi or Ronaldinho. But decades ago, it was “el Magico” who would dribble past defenders as if the ball was glued to his foot. His amazing speed and change of direction made him practically unstopable. All of this, as a player who never bothered to put in hard work and dedication to be the best. He played because he loved the game but hated “hard work”. He was playing in the first division of Spain and he was treating it like a typically Sunday adult league.
As fantastic as he was on the field, “el Magico” had a hard time finding a balance between work and the nightlife. His frequent nightlife made him an alcoholic athlete who enjoyed the presence of women. His nights would often end until the early morning and his hangovers would impede him to attend many practices. As much as the Cádiz tried to ban his nightlife and set him straight, all attempts were useless. Gonzalez was never fond of money, therefore the clubs fines did not affect him. In fact, people close to him tell stories how he would forget to go pick up his paycheck because he claimed he didn’t need money. As frustrated as the club must have been, they could not afford to bench him. He helped the team get promoted to the first division and was a fan favorite. No matter how hungover, the team needed “el Magico”.
His troubled nightlife also prevented him transferring to FC Barcelona in 1983. The Catalan giants were interested in the salvadoran forward and decided to invite him on a preseason tour. Alongside the great Diego Maradona, “el Magico” shined with the Barcelona side and proved he deserved to be on the same field with the great “Diego”. Unfortunately, failure to evacuate the team hotel during a fire was the final straw for the catalan team. Later on, it was discovered that Gonzalez did not hear the alarms as he was in bed with a women.
Many players and fans in Europe remember “el Magico” as one of the greatest to ever play the game. However, it was his crazy nightlife and fear of hard work that prevented him from reaching the level of Pele and Maradona. He always claimed that he played soccer because he loved the game. But the moment the game became work, he would quit the sport. For most of us, the statement seems bizarre, but in “el Magico”’s crazy mind, it might just make sense.
His legacy continues to live on not just in El Salvador but in Cadiz and all of Spain. Ask any Cadiz fan who the best player in history is and they’ll immediately say “el Magico”. Even non-Cadiz fans in Spain will admit that the salvadorian had a special gift that no other player has ever had.
So today, on his 59th birthday, I’d like to honor the greatest player to ever come out of my native El Salvador. Even with his uncontrollable personality and phobia to commitment, he is still the pride of the country. So Happy Birthday to Jorge “el Magico” Gonzalez, the “Greatest Who Never Was”.