Very few people have left such a mark on a footballing region as Jorge El Mágico Gonzalez has in Central America. The legendary former El Salvador player enthralled fans in the 1980s with his delectable moves on the field and his colourful social life off it.
Indeed the people of El Salvador were not the only ones given license to dream by the creative midfielder. Equally enamoured were the fans of Spanish side Cadiz, who adopted him as one of their own and still believe him to be the club's greatest ever hero. So what has happened since he called time on his playing career, and has his life away from the pitch been as intense as ever? The answers might surprise you. After being recognised as his country's greatest player, Gonzalez has had a spell working in the US and further playing stints, not to mention collecting official awards along the way.
One of a kind
And who better than the man himself to explain the personality behind this most unusual of former players. "I've never considered myself to be an example to follow. I like to live life in my own way. I'm not one for conforming, or adhering to the logical approach that comes with appropriate behaviour."
In 1991, at the age of 33, El Mágico bade his final farewell to Cadiz, the club dearest to his heart. However, anyone who thought this would mark the end of his playing career was greatly mistaken. He promptly returned to his former club in El Salvador, CD Fas, where he would continue to thrill the fans until retiring in 2000 - at the ripe old age of 42.
The mercurial Salvadoran has not changed his off-field customs either. "I admit I'm no saint," he says. "I love going out at night and partying, and not even my mother could dissuade me. I don't like looking at football as a job. If I did that, it wouldn't be me. I only play for fun."
A prodigal son of Cadiz and El Salvador
Unsurprisingly, the curtain coming down on Gonzalez's playing career did not signify the end of footballing adventures. On leaving FAS, the Salvadoran emigrated to the USA to take up the position of assistant coach with Houston. And while the sojourn there turned out to be brief, Gonzalez lost no time getting to know his new environs, driving a taxi cab round the Texan city in his spare time.
In 2001, Cadiz staged a testimonial game for him in which
banners such as "San Jorge, Mágico Gonzalez, Patron Saint of
Cadiz" were affectionately waved. Many that evening also
recounted some of the more colourful anecdotes about their former
player, such as the time he nodded off on the shoulder of a
defender while waiting for a corner, or the day when, still
hungover, he arrived at half time with his side 0-3 down to
Barcelona only to inspire a second-half comeback and help his side
run out 4-3 winners.
Two years later, the government of El Salvador bestowed on him the Hijo Meritísimo order of merit and, in his honour, changed the name of the national stadium from "Flor Blanca" to "Estadio Magico Gonzalez". For many this would be a source of tremendous satisfaction, but Jorge was unconvinced.
"No I don't like it, even though it came in my lifetime. Yes, I'm flattered, but no I don't like it." Asked to explain, he says, "Every one of us Salvadorans who are trying to do things well, or at least not hinder progress, are worthy of this award. That said, I am flattered."
Currently, El Mágico lives in his beloved San Salvador, where he is promoting a youth competition called "Mágico's street football". In addition, he continues to play amateur football and recently appeared in a "Showbol" game with his good friend Diego Maradona.
And just two weeks ago, Jorge Gonzalez turned 50, celebrating the big day by indulging in one of his grand passions - sleeping all day. Some things just never change...