Fran Gonzalez - The vesatile former Real Madrid youth product propelling Bagan's dreams

Mohun Bagan are flying high in the I-League at the moment. They have a comfortable lead at the top of the table and are looking firm favourites to win the title at the halfway stage.

A major reason why the Kolkata club has done well is the performance of their foreign recruits. The overseas players roped in have delivered consistently for the Mariners which has been key to their purple patch.

One of the most prominent signing for Bagan this season has to be their Spanish defensive midfielder Francisco Javier Gonzalez Munoz or Fran Gonzalez as he is popularly known as.

This former Real Madrid youth product joined the club at the beginning of the season and became an immediate fan favourite. The fans lovingly call him the team’s ‘Boss’ because of his immense passion and strong persona on the pitch.

So where did it all begin for the Spaniard? In a chat with Goal, Bagan’s ‘Boss’ revealed how he got into the sport.

“As a child, I didn’t like football that much but my older brother (Victor) used to play. I really liked how he played and fought. He is a lot like me. He plays with passion. So I really liked that thing about him and I started playing with him when I was five or six years old.”

Fran Gonzalez Mohun Bagan I-League 2019-20

Gonzalez’s brother, who is 10 years older to him, unfortunately, could not continue playing football due to multiple injuries. Victor could never live his dreams but his Fran made sure he made it big as a footballer.

“He is 10 years older than me,” continued Gonzalez. “When I was 14 years old I went to Real Madrid. So he was 24 then and he stopped playing football because he had too many injuries. He started riding mountain bikes and he grew a passion for that."

The Spaniard joined Real Madrid academy in 2005 and was part of the youth system for two and a half years. He recalled some of his teammates from Real Madrid Juvenil like current Valencia skipper Dani Parejo, former FC Barcelona player Aleix Vidal and goalkeeper Tomas Mejias who plies his trade with Middlesbrough currently.

Gonzalez revealed that when he joined Real Madrid’s youth team he was pretty much unfazed and did not realize the gravity of the situation. It was only after he left the side, that he realized how the big the opportunity was.

“At that time nothing clicked in my mind. It only happened after I came back from there. I was there in Real Madrid’s youth setup for two and a half years and then when I came back, I realised what it was to be a Real Madrid player.

“When you are young, you don’t really know how it is going around you. When you are at Real Madrid you start thinking that you are already a Zinedine Zidane or a Luis Figo. You enjoy the fame, you get the money and you feel like a boss. When I came back home, I realised maybe I could have done better.”

Luis Figo Real Madrid 2001-02

The Mohun Bagan midfielder idolised Luis Figo while growing up mostly because he used to play in the same position as the Portuguese legend.

“At that time my inspiration was Luis Figo. I used to play in his position, number 10 and number 7. So I really loved Figo. I even played as a striker in my younger days but mostly, I was a winger or a playmaker. Then slowly I became a number eight and finally number six, now number five as well and maybe a goalkeeper next! That is why I know how to attack. I have already played as a forward.

“When I was 18 I used to play number 10 and eight but when I started playing professional football I became more of a number six. When you are a young player you have to play in multiple positions. I never had any problem playing in several positions.”

The versatile player has been used by Mohun Bagan coach Kibu Vicuna as a defensive midfielder and a central defender. Despite playing from the back, Gonzalez is the team’s top goal scorer and second highest scorer in the league with six goals from 10 matches.

Gonzalez's time in Poland overlapped with that of his current Kibu Vicuna as well. Gonzalez was playing for Bytovia Bytów from 2016-2018 while Vicuna was an assistant manager at Slask Wroclaw during the 2017-18 season.

Kibu Vicuna Mohun Bagan

When asked if he knew Vicuna from his Polish stint, Gonzalez said, “I think he knew me. He wanted to sign me at Mohun Bagan so maybe he knew me from Poland. Honestly, I didn’t know him. In fact, I did not know he was Spanish. I thought he was from Poland.”

The player heaped praise on his coach and mentioned that the 48-year-old is not just a good coach but an even better human being. He also suggested that he shares a very special relation with Vicuna.

“It is amazing. He is not just a good coach but he is also a very nice guy. We have a very close relationship as an experienced player and a coach. He is responsible for the position in which we are right now and he absolutely deserves it.”

The Bagan player revealed how he got an offer from the Kolkata club and how former ATK player Javi Lara influenced his decision to take up the offer.

“This is my third time in Asia. I played for Pattaya United in Thailand and then last season I was in Hong Kong playing for Lee Man FC. At Lee Man, I was their captain and top scorer. I renewed my contract there but I had a few friends who played in India like Javi Lara (who played in ATK). So when I got the chance to come here, I didn’t have any doubt. I checked about Mohun Bagan on the internet, I got to know about the club, the fans and of course the Kolkata Derby. I called Lara and made up my mind about coming here. I cancelled my contract at Lee Man and came here.”