Real Madrid's UCL hero Dani Carvajal eyes passing legendary Paco Gento: 'Why not dream of getting another?'



LONDON — Dani Carvajal might have carved out a place for himself in European Cup history on Saturday but little over an hour after the final whistle at Wembley, Real Madrid’s match-winner already had his mind on clearing Paco Gento’s legendary mark.

Carvajal was one of four Madrid players to win their sixth Champions League title on Saturday night, the veteran right back’s second-half header setting the Spanish champions on course for a 15th win overall. Six of those have come in the last decade, all of them have ended with Carvajal, Luka Modric and Nacho clutching winners’ medals. Toni Kroos has added five of his own to the one he won at Bayern Munich in 2013, his club career ending with the greatest of highs with a 2-0 win over Borussia Dortmund.

Such a record of success places this iteration of Madrid greats ahead of those who established such a formidable history for this club by winning the first five European Cups from 1955 onwards. Gento, who died in 2022, was present for all those triumphs in addition to the win over Partizan in 1966.

His six winners’ medals had for so long seemed beyond the reach of anyone, even those with Madrid’s remorseless belief that whatever the circumstances, they will win. Now Carvajal is dreaming of adding a seventh.

“I’m very happy, joining this select club,” he said. “Every time we get one [more] it’s going to be more and more complicated to take the record from us. We know how difficult it is. I’m really happy, playing all six of them in the first XI with the club of my life.

“If I could speak to Paco Gento I would say it seemed impossible to join this club. Of course, why not dream of getting another? Whatever the future brings, we will see.”

Carvajal may not be the most garlanded of names in Madrid’s hegemony over this tournament but both Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane have come to rely on his veteran nous. Whether that makes him a legend is not perhaps a question for him to address in the aftermath of the greatest moment of two decades with Madrid. The 32-year-old did, however, offer a suggestion for how his legacy might be cemented. “Maybe I should just quit like Toni did,” he said. 

“People who know me know I work every day … When most of the staff tell you you deserve it, you end up believing it. You see what it means, when you’re conscious of hard work you get that reward. It’s really nice.”

Carvajal’s goal, just the second he has scored in the Champions League, proved to be the decisive moment in a hard-fought contest. Borussia Dortmund had had much the better of the first half but Madrid’s right back had had chances to swing the game in his side’s favor, flicking a near post header just over Gregor Kobel’s bar.

He made no mistakes when another chance came his way, making the most of Nacho’s blocking to glide ahead of Niklas Fullkrug and meet Kroos’ free kick with a powerful header. His manic energy betrayed his inexperience as a celebrator of goals but it was that same verve that meant a 5-foot-8 right back could rise above everyone else to score the winning header.

“I just ran to celebrate. Inside I was just feeling angry really, saying here I am. It’s not all about height. You need to be there, jump for the ball, show determination and sometimes the shortest players can score headers too.”





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