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Mago Gonzalez: The Football “Magician” Of El Salvador

He was one of those magicians of the ball, who had the ingenuity and creativity to give it that special touch that only the talented can give to a sport like football. Jose Alberto “Mago” Gonzalez Barillas was an icon on and off the field, many of the great players in history remember him for his bohemian and particular lifestyle that held his talent back. In this post, we will take a brief look at the life and career of Mago Gonzalez.

Mago Gonzalez: All You Need To Know

Coming from a country with little football tradition, such as El Salvador, ‘El Mágico’, as he is affectionately known for his exceptional abilities as a player, has been the most representative figure in the region and still retains the affection of a hobby that saw him as a ‘Messiah’ in the midst of a nation full of economic and social problems, so common in emerging Latin America.

How did Mago Gonzalez start his football life?

Mago Gonzalez’s football beginnings were in the ANTEL club (National Telecommunications Administration) in soccer in that country. He already showed signs of his great talent with the ball at a very young age, to the point that he was called ‘the magician’ by sports journalists of the time who did not hide their amazement with the talented teenager that sprang from the little-known Salvadoran league.

He was quickly taken into account by other clubs such as Independiente and Deportivo FAS, with whom he won two national titles and was immediately called up to the El Salvador National Team, a team he led and achieved the feat of qualifying for the 1982 World Cup in Spain. An event that would change Jose Gonzalez’s life and would give him a new direction in his special sports career.

Although the Central American team did not achieve the best results in the global contest, since it lost all three of its matches and, one of them, by a score of 10 – 1 against Hungary, ‘el Mágico’ left his mark and had moments of talent that grabbed the attention of several businessmen from the Iberian country to have him in their ranks.

Where did Mago Gonzalez start his professional football career?

And it was the modest Cadiz who was in charge of taking over the tricks of ‘el Mágico’ for the start of that season, a bet on a player they knew little about and who did not bring many scrolls with him in his short career. But little to risk for a club that has not achieved league titles and that spent it in continuous transit between the first, second, and even third divisions.

At 23 years old, Jose Gonzalez made his debut in the Spanish League and had good performances that allowed him to gain the trust of the coaching staff. With the passing of the days, already a fixed man in the starting lineup, and his 30 goals, in 75 games, were enough for him to make the pseudonym ‘el Mágico’ a topic of conversation in the small coastal city.

Cadiz suited the striker very well, its rhythm of life, tranquility, friendly climate, and beautiful beaches fit in with the style of the already consecrated player. But at the same time, he began to show signs of behavior that drew a lot of attention for being eccentric and somewhat disorderly. Nightlife, parties until dawn, and non-compliance with training began to become very common in the Salvadoran’s routines.

“I admit that I am not a saint, that I like the night, and that the desire to party does not take them away from me, not even my mother. I know that I am irresponsible and a bad professional, and I may be missing the opportunity of a lifetime. I know, but I have a stupid thing in my head: I don’t like to take football as a job. If I did, it wouldn’t be me, I just play for fun”, one of the famous phrases of ‘el Mágico’ during his eccentric life in Spain.

How did the fans react to the wild lifestyle of Mago Gonzalez?

The curious thing is that the fans knew about his lifestyle, but they did not make claims because on the field the forward fulfilled in each game of Cadiz. To such an extent that the club fined him and did not line him up in the starting line-up of some matches as a sign of punishment, and people began to demand the presence of the Salvadoran on the pitch. It was an uncontrollable situation for the club.

Proof of this was that memorable match against Barcelona for the Ramon de Carranza Trophy. ‘El Mágico’ arrived late to the game and could not be part of the starting eleven, during the first half Cádiz was already losing 3 – 0 and the coach decided to incorporate the Salvadoran. Only 45 minutes were enough for him to contribute two goals and two assists, and thus reverse a match that remained in the history of the hearts of the Cadiz fans.

Bitter passage through Valladolid

Mago Gonzalez was a star in Cadiz, loved and pampered, despite all his controversial behavior. But the descent of the club could not prevent his departure and several big teams were asking for his services, an entry of great economic significance for the coffers of the people of Cadiz.

Barcelona was close to signing him, with the idea of ​​doing a duet with the great Diego Maradona, but his indiscipline spoiled everything. In 1984 he toured the United States with the Catalan giant, played for several minutes, and even scored a goal, but his contract did not take place because in a hotel he ignored a fire alarm for meeting a girl inside his room. Speculation or not, there was a lot of talk about his behavior before sitting down to negotiate.

Faced with the refusal of the Catalan giants, the Salvadoran striker was loaned to Real Valladolid, but their strict rules and severe control over his life bored Gonzalez and his magic did not appear. So, he decided to return to Cadiz, under strict economic conditions, and there he was not out of place and contributed another 30 goals to leave his definitive mark.

How did Mago Gonzalez retire from football?

But time passed and the years wore on the ‘Magico’, the rumba and a busy life brought forward Jose Alberto’s return home, although Atalanta made an attempt to sign him, the Salvadoran preferred to give up and think about his retirement. A rape charge against him tainted his dismissal, but he got off scot-free and his name remained clear in the small seaside town.

What did Mago Gonzalez do after coming back to El Salvador?

Already in El Salvador, he extended that decision to hang up his boots and played with FAS for another 10 years and gave the Santa Ana team another two titles. And that was the tricks of ‘El mago’, who left a giant mark in world football and will be remembered for his famous ‘macheteada snake’, a contribution of his quality that is still emulated by many of the planet’s footballers.

What did Diego Maradona say about Mago Gonzalez?

“I was lucky to play with him. And after seeing the hooks he hit the Spanish … he was unique! We, in training, always wanted to imitate him, but we couldn’t. We used to say: ‘did you see the goal that El Mágico scored?’; if we wanted to throw the hitch, we would all tear ourselves apart. He is a great guy, he deserves all the love from El Salvador. He is among the 10 best players I have seen in my life, without a doubt”, Diego Maradona’s words were proof of how far ‘el Mágico’ came and how close he was to one of the greatest in history.

What did Mago Gonzalez say about joining PSG?

That Jorge Alberto Gonzalez Barillas decided to play in Cadiz and in the Second Division instead of Paris almost tells the complete story of a unique footballer inside and outside a football field. “The magician González” from his beginnings in the Salvadoran Ante became “Mágico” in the silver cup. He had it done with Paris Saint-Germain, a team that still had nothing to do with the club it is today and that was barely twelve years old, but on the day of the signing he did not show up. He just decided at the last moment that he didn’t want to live in Paris.

“I know that I am irresponsible and a bad professional, and that I may be wasting the opportunity of a lifetime. I know, but I have a stupid thing in my head: I don’t like to take football as a job. If I did, it wouldn’t be me. I just play for fun.” When he uttered these words he was already an idol, and perhaps after uttering them he was even more so. Actually, his words made him as famous as his talent. The words he used to define his free life.

The goal against Mexico that meant El Salvador’s qualification for the 1982 World Cup in Spain, after dribbling past five opponents, drew all eyes on him. But he didn’t care about any of that. What he liked was sleeping with numerous beautiful women. And a little football. He refused to dress in yellow for no reason. The following year the team was promoted to First, but it was a mirage where the cadistas filled the Carranza just to see “Mágico” do beautiful things.

Speaking about the driving force towards his career, Mago Gonzalez said: “My obsession was always to have fun. I wanted to be happy without trampling on anyone. And it was true. The only thing he stepped on was the ball and once he passed over Barcelona. He fell asleep after a night of revelry and did not arrive until the second half, but then he went out onto the field and scored two goals and Cádiz came from behind to beat the Catalans 4-3. Not to be an idol.”

The same Barcelona club took him on a summer tour at the time of Maradona with the intention of signing him, something that he finally did not do after the hotel fire alarm sounded and the only player who did not come out was him. When they went to look for him, they found him asleep and in good company. “I’ve always been very lazy and that day I had a hard time getting up,” he replied.

Why did Mago Gonzalez struggle to showcase his best on the football field?

Maradona claimed that he was much better than him: “I come from planet earth. He is from another galaxy”, something that David Vidal, one of his coaches at Cadiz, already told in another way, when after condemning him to substitution for his indiscipline, he saw him give “20 or 30” touches with his feet to a package of tobacco. Some feet that one day he came to train without shoes because he had given them to “a kid” that he did not have.

He never wanted anything, not even the 50 million pesetas that the president of Cadiz offered him on the condition that each indiscipline would cost him half of those millions. “Mágico” knew that with that clause he would have ended up owing money to his team. He never held on to anything or allowed anything to hold him down, although he later acknowledged, as a sincere regret for his indomitable life, that he respected football, but did not respect himself. However, Mago Gonzalez will always be remembered as a player whose career ended up being underwhelming because of his off the field issues. He will always be remembered for being the magician, perhaps not so much for his football career success.

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