“Pintita” had a successful career full of titles, although he always had to deal with injuries and, especially, with five that were serious and that almost anticipated his retirement.
This Wednesday, Fernando Gago announced that he was permanently retiring from professional football at the age of 34. The Vélez midfielder managed to put an end to his extensive sports career in the way he had always wanted to: within a court.
Champion with Boca, Real Madrid and the Argentina Sub 20 National Team, Pintita he owns an enviable resume that he forged on the basis of talent and that was only limited by a string of damn injuries that, it is worth noting, always overcame.
That physical problems conditioned his true potential is as true as that they also transformed him into a true example of overcoming and resilience in world football. And he knows it better than anyone: “I had difficult moments, repeated injuries that affected me during these last years, but which in turn taught me and made me the person I am today.”
According to data released by Transfermarkt, Gago suffered throughout his career 23 injuries, which represented 1303 days (3.5 years) of recovery and that caused his absence in 148 games. However, there were five of them that stand out above the rest and that were repeated in two specific areas: the anterior cruciate ligament of the knee and the Achilles tendon.
The curse began on September 13, 2015, in the Superclásico where Boca won 1-0 against River at the Monumental. That day, the Achilles tendon in his left foot was severed for the first time, when the referee’s timer had just ticked 24 seconds into the game. He was replaced immediately and days later began his long recovery, including surgery. In total, they were almost five months without being able to play another game with the professional team.
Shortly after his return, the worst happened: the same injury, on the same foot and against the same rival. Only the setting changed, which was La Bombonera. That April 24, 2016, Gago recovered a ball inside the area 40 minutes into the first half and after passing near rival striker Lucas Alario, he fell collapsed to the ground. He felt the pain and thought it had been a kick, but the Achilles tendon had broken again.
This time, the recovery took a lot more patience. It was a tough process and full of uncertainty, but the midfielder He managed to wear the Boca shirt again after seven months and three days.
“I’ve had that pain in the Achilles for 15 years. It’s from an overbone. I always played because I infiltrated“He confessed later, adding: “I couldn’t walk barefoot on the beach of pain, I was wearing slippers. I had no solution, I had to operate and the operation did not ensure that I looked good. I could break even walking.
He had a year and five months “tranquility”, until on October 5, 2017, he suffered the rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament and the internal lateral of his right knee while playing with the Argentine National Team, which faced Peru in La Bombonera for the South American Qualifiers. It happened just 180 seconds after he entered the field in place of Éver Banega, at 14 minutes of the second half.
From that moment, the memory of Gago shouting remains “I broke my crusader!” and, aware of his injury, begging the doctor of the selected team to allow him to continue shouting “Let me play Dani (by Daniel Martínez, the selected doctor), come on! “. With only a bandage on his knee, he stood up and raised his hand for the referee to give him permission to enter the field of play, but the doctors did not allow it. The result: another seven months of treatment and 216 days off the court.
So, rumors of his retirement began to take hold. However, he played again under the command of Guillermo Barros Schelotto until, on December 9, 2018, in the historic final of the Copa Libertadores between River and Boca at the Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid, fate played another trick on him: the same injury, against the same rival, although on a different foot.
Pintita He had entered the final minutes of the match after the expulsion of Colombian Wilmar Barrios. With the game 2-1 in favor of the team led by Marcelo Gallardo, Gago felt the pain in an isolated play 4 minutes before the end of the second overtime and fell to the ground: Achilles tendon rupture, but in the right foot.
Unlike the previous times, accustomed or perhaps resigned, he got up without grimacing of pain and began to walk limping towards the substitute bench, while the coach xeneize I asked him to hold out the last few minutes. But He knew he couldn’t continue and the team was left with another player less because there were no more changes.
Days after, made the decision to terminate his contract and that was the end of his second cycle at Boca. He left the playing fields without a firm decision to return, although in mid-2019 he arranged a bond with Vélez because his son Mateo had asked him to play again and because, as he always said, he wanted to retire on the field. Also, her friendship with him Gringo Gabriel Heinze, at that time DT Velezano, added a lot to the decision.
Far from being a happy ending, in January 2020 the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee was torn during a match against Aldosivi on the 18th date of the Super League. In total, it was 213 days of recovery. Again he overcame and managed to return to Peñarol for the 16th final of the Copa Sudamericana, in the resumption of football after the global inactivity due to the pandemic unleashed by the coronavirus.
Finally, he played his last game as a professional footballer this Sunday, November 8. He entered in place of Federico Mancuello at the beginning of the second half against Diego Maradona’s Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata. He already had the decision in mind and, perhaps because of that, he took the kicks of the rivals in a different way, with the certainty that they would be the last.