The cult hero you’ve never heard of who Barcelona almost paired with Maradona

You’ve probably never heard of the absurdly talented player Barcelona almost signed to play alongside Diego Maradona.

But, despite his ability, Jorge Gonzalez was destined to spend his career at clubs the echelon below the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester United.

Born in El Salvador in 1958, Gonzalez signed for Cadiz in 1982 – despite interest from Atletico Madrid – where he instantly became a fan favourite for his dazzling skill and penchant for the spectacular.

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While Gonzalez, who was affectionately nicknamed ‘El Magico’, shone in front of the Spanish audiences, there was another South American who was tearing it up not so far away in Barcelona: one Diego Maradona.

And though Gonzalez now considers Maradona one of the greatest players of all time, the feeling is mutual.

Maradona said the Salvadorian was “without a doubt amongst the greatest ten players I have ever seen play, in all my life”.

They had contrasting styles: Maradona was a stocky, nimble dribbler, while Gonzalez was a skinny playmaker. But Barcelona almost paired the two footballers together.

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Gonzalez had a reputation as a bit of a tearaway, and someone who enjoyed the nightlife a little too much. And when the Cadiz board’s patience was wearing thin with the talented South American, he was invited to join Maradona and Barcelona on pre-season tour in America.

Barcelona seriously considered the permanent signing of Gonzalez, who had treated Andalusia as his playground since arriving from El Salvador, but they were well aware of his reputation and scrutinised his behaviour while travelling with the squad.

He reportedly managed to scupper a permanent move to join Maradona at the Catalan club, thanks to his love of the finer things in life. The first black mark against his name came when he managed to miss his flight out to New York, having to catch the next one.

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But he would make a graver infraction that would prove costly when it came to El Magico’s aspirations of playing for a top Spanish club. Here’s how the story goes:

While at a team hotel, Gonzalez became aware that Maradona would set off the fire alarm in the dead of night. Knowing this, Gonzalez ignored the alarm when it was inevitably raised, while entertaining a local waitress in his room. But the hotel’s security took a hard line on their disobedience, hauling the pair out of bed and bringing them down to the hotel lobby. After that episode, Barcelona decided they didn’t need another talented South American who played up off the pitch.

For what it’s worth, Gonzalez’s take on it is slightly different. He believes the departure of Argentine coach Cesar Luis Menotti was the real reason he didn’t become a Barcelona player.

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But by the end of 1985, Cadiz were fed up with their troublesome superstar, and sold Gonzalez to Real Valladolid, one of the few clubs willing to gamble on him.

But El Magico’s time there never looked destined to last. When he was unveiled at the club on a icy day, he was asked how it felt to be a Valladolid player. He replied, “very cold and very sleepy”.

During a short and dismal spell, he made nine appearances for Valladolid and, relenting to the will of the fans, Cadiz re-signed their rough diamond.

Gonzalez continued to misbehave off the pitch and shine on it, writing himself into Cadiz’s history as a true club legend.

His second stint also included a sublime solo goal against the club who nearly signed him. Take a look at Gonzalez’s strike against Barcelona.

Who knows what would have happened if El Magico had behaved himself on that fateful trip the USA with Barcelona. We could be mentioning his name in the same breath as other Barca legends like Maradona, Johan Cruyff, Michael Laudrup and Lionel Messi.

Or he could have flopped dramatically like he did at Valladolid. Either way, Gonzalez remains a hero at Cadiz, where he played 194 league games, scoring 58 times.

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