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Who was Enrique “Pachín” Perez?

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Real Madrid have lost alot of legendary figures over the last 12 months, some of them were names every Madridista recognized despite decades having pasted since their time with Real Madrid started while others likely meant more to an older generation of Real Madrid fans. Pachín, who died today aged 82, is probably a mix of both. His term of service across two of Real Madrid’s most successful eras earns him a legendary status, however, the defender’s contribution has probably been sidelined by the glamourous attacking talents he played with.

Pachín has been described by some as the first all purpose defender due to his ability to play across the backline (even venturing out as a winger at times during his career). He was born in Cantabria in December 1938, starting his playing days Gimnástica. He then signed successively to Celta Vigo and Osasuna, whom gave him his LaLiga bow during the 1958-59 season.

The 19-year-old had a difficult start to life in Spain’s top flight. Due to the quick succession of his transfers from Celta to Osasuna, it took the Spanish Federation a full two months to validate his move meaning he didn’t debut with Osasuna until November. Amongst his first ten games for the club was a home match against Di Stefano’s Real Madrid. Pachín had been tasked with marking Puskas and having gone for a run with the Hungarian forward the night before the game, he wasn’t impressed. “I saw an older, fat man and I thought, ‘this guy could be my father.’

As it would prove for many defender who came up against Puskas, looks can be decieving and Pachín said he spent much of the game chasing shadows and feeling “like a fool”. Real were 2-0 up at halftime and Pachín was assigned to Di Stefano in the second half, an assignment he surprisingly managed much better than Puskas. Osasuna lost 2-1 with Di Stefano having a quiet second 45. At the full time whistle, the Argentine approached Pachín and asked if he would like to play for Real Madrid, Pachín replied: ‘Yes, of course. How can I not?’ ‘Well, soon you will hear from us,” Di Stefano reportedly retorted.

Pachín finished a rather inconsistent year at Osasuna and, following an appeal by Celta for the nature of his departure, was banned from playing for a year that summer. Despite all this, Di Stefano continued to insist to Bernabéu that he sign Pachín. Often unmentioned about Di Stefano was his influence with the club’s higher ups. After Gento’s poor first season at Madrid, it was Di Stefano who convinced the club not to sell him and it was also Di Stefano who recommended that they signed Hector Rial. Having proven his good eye already, the club signed Pachín that summer.

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Due to his ban, Pachín competed solely in the many friendlies that the club played in across the season and on a handful ocassions for the U-21s. He first official match for Los Blancos was the 1959-1960 European Cup semi-final against Barcelona which Real won 6-2 over two legs. He was deployed out wide during the final against Eintracht Frankfurt and became something of a defensive swiss army for Munoz across the nine years he played for Real.

Pachín was reportedly a strong, disciplined player often tasked with man marking duties, something he excelled at. From the few games I watched of Pachín, he possessed one of the best traits a defender can have, anonymity. Where the likes of Zoco and, arguably, Santamaria were high action defenders, Pachín was quite the opposite which is generally the sign of a very talented defender

Off the pitch, Pachín was known for his warmth, sense of humour and friendship with centre back partner, Marquinthos. Apparently one of the defining locker room experiences of the Di Stefano era was the laughing matches between Pachín and Marquinthos, whom made jokes about themselves, each other and everyone else.

Throughout his stay, Pachín received many big money offers to leave the club and rejected them all. Despite this, he had a lot of grievances with how Madrid treated him and some of his teammates. In 1962, it took an intervention, once again, from Di Stefano to stop Pachín from leaving after contract negotiations had broken down. He carried his issues with the clubs for decades afterwards, however, he never went public with them, “Real Madrid is untouchable, it is above everything,” he is reported to have said. Across 218 games, Pachín won two European Cups, seven league titles, a Copa del Rey and the 1960 Intercontinental Cup.

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Injury eventually forced him to move on from Los Blancos in 1968, joining Real Betis for a season in the second division. Following his retirement, Pachín returned to Madrid to start his coaching career with Real Madrid C. That part of his life lasted 13 years, largely in the second and third division of Spanish football. Pachín is particularly well remembered with Levante, whom he managed for three separate stints. The first time was in 1979-80 where he helped the Segunda B champions survive their first season back in the second tier.

Pachín’s Levante were humble, well drilled and hard working. Despite having few standout players, he was able to get the best out of his team and that made them very hard to beat. In his second season, he had Levante competing for promotion, his side even topping the table at the end of gameweek 20. In the January transfer window, the club with the smallest budget in the division, remarkably, signed Johan Cyruff on a big money contract. The 32-year-old superstar had returned to football after several poor investments left him strapped for cash. He had pretty minimal impact on the 10 games he played and didn’t seem to get on too well with Pachin. Preceding an away trip to Granada, the former Real defender was asked how Cyruff was training, “He doesn’t kill himself” Pachín replied.

The Levante manager later blamed the hype around Cyruff for collapsing their promotion challenge, saying it had benefited their opponents. Just under two weeks after signing Cyruff, Pachín was sacked following a run of poor results and was replaced by Rife, a manager whom was Barcelona’s captain during Cyruff’s playing days with the Blaugrana.

Pachín wouldn’t return to Levante until 1984-85. The club were struggling in the third division something he was able to rectify before leaving at the end of that season to join Ablacete. His final stint with Levante came two years later, finishing sixth in Segunda B.

Since his retirement, Pachín has been an active member around Madrid circles, giving plenty of interviews about the glory days. His presence will be missed.