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Francisco Gallardo Leon, Sevilla, 2003

Leeds United’s Paco Gallardo & a golden chance to live down penis-nibbling infamy

“I felt a little nip,” recalled the late Jose Antonio Reyes. “But I didn’t realise what Paco was doing.”

What Paco was doing was causing outrage in the Spanish press.

Reyes had just scored a wonderful solo goal for Sevilla in a 4-0 victory over Real Valladolid. He’d run all the way from his own half and determinedly charged through the opposition’s backline before finishing with aplomb.

It was a goal that showed why the academy graduate was viewed as one of the most exciting prospects in Spanish football.

But few remember the goal from the sadly-departed Arsenal cult hero. Everyone remembers what happened next.

Enter Paco Gallardo and his – er, unique – way of showing his appreciation for Reyes’ individual brilliance amid the celebrations. With Reyes on the floor, Gallardo went straight for the family jewels, giving the appendage what Martin Jol might describe as a “playful nibble”.

 

“INTOLERABLE” was the all-caps front page splash in Madrid-based sports paper Marca the next day.

“I am sure I didn’t offend anyone,” responded Gallardo. “I don’t think what I did was very noteworthy.”

The football authorities didn’t see it the same way. He was charged with “violating sporting dignity and decorum” by the Spanish Football Federation and subsequently fined and suspended.

Gallardo helped Sevilla get promoted from the Segunda Division and went on to make over 100 appearances for his boyhood club as they established themselves as a force in La Liga in the early noughties. Despite the former midfielder’s best efforts, he’s never quite been able to live that moment down.

Search his name and you’ll no doubt see mentions of the story feature highly. It’s the defining moment of his career to date.

Having embarked on a promising coaching career since his retirement, the 43-year-old now has a chance to change all that.

Following Jesse Marsch’s dismissal at Leeds United, the Spaniard is one of the coaches that’s remained in his post at Elland Road. He is part of a three-man coaching team to take charge of the relegation-battling Whites as they face a trip to the old enemy Manchester United.

The others have interesting backstories, too. Michael Skubala has taken the lesser-travelled path from England Futsal Coach with the FA to head coach of Leeds’ Under-21s to caretaker coach.

Chris Armas has dominated the narrative. The American served as assistant during Ralf Rangnick’s short tenure at Manchester United last season and was reportedly nicknamed ‘Ted Lasso’ by the sniggering class clowns in the dressing room. His revenge mission is an opportunity to get the last laugh over his old colleagues.

But that’s boring in comparison to Gallardo’s potential redemption arc from penis-biter extraordinaire to the first Leeds coach to win a Premier League match at Old Trafford. The 43-year-old has been gifted a golden chance to change his Google rankings forever and with them a tag that’s dogged him for over 20 years.

Hollywood scriptwriters will be watching on with anticipation of penning the adaptation.


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