A winner in six European Champion Clubs' Cup finals, 72-year-old Real Madrid CF hero Francisco Gento talked to uefa.com about the inaugural final in Paris.
A winner in six European Champion Clubs' Cup finals, Real Madrid CF hero Francisco Gento still recalls the first of those triumphs, in the inaugural final in Paris, with special affection.
Gento was one of a number of players who gathered in Reims to remember the first European Cup showpiece between his Madrid side and French champions Stade de Reims Champagne on 13 June 1956. He may be 72, but he has not forgotten his team's 4-3 victory at the Parc des Princes. "We made a terrible start and found ourselves 2-0 down inside ten minutes," he told uefa.com. "But I remember we didn't panic because we knew we could score goals, and soon we were back on level terms.
"Reims went in front once more after half-time and at that point we were worried because they had the crowd behind them and they were a super team. Luckily we equalised again, then for the winning goal I broke down the left and passed inside to Héctor Rial and he scored to make it 4-3. It was an unforgettable moment." It was the start of a beautiful relationship with the European Cup for both Madrid and Gento. He said: "I played in eight finals in total and I won six. We were the strongest team in the world and it was a huge pleasure to play with so many magical players."
That mid-1950s Madrid side would certainly have given this season's UEFA Champions League finalists Arsenal FC and FC Barcelona a tough game. Gento said: "When you have talent like Raymond Kopa, Ferenc Puskás and Alfredo di Stéfano, you have to put them all in the team and as a result we were very attack-minded. We used to call Kopa 'Napoleon' because he was a source of inspiration. He could run around opponents all day long. But we had so many great players in that team it's not surprising we won so many European Cups. Other great players have graced the European scene since - people like Diego Maradona and more recently Ronaldinho. But nobody has won as many European Cups as we did. Winning the European Cup is the true test of greatness."
For Gento, there was no better proof of his side's greatness than the 1959/60 final. "Perhaps the most memorable match was the 7-3 win against Eintracht Frankfurt, a game that is carved in the history of the club," he added. "Since those days Madrid have prided themselves on playing with style and panache, and even if they are having some problems now, you know they'll be back soon."
However great that victory was, it cannot quite equal the experience of playing against Reims - whom Madrid beat again in the 1958/59 showpiece - in the first final. "The two finals against Reims evoke wonderful memories, and it's great to be reunited with so many of the players from those games," said Gento as he talked old times with Reims's Michel Leblond, Michel Hidalgo and Kopa. "We may be old but the most important thing is that we're here and we're all friends together again."