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PROFILE Fran the man for Depor

Monday 1st April 2002

by Lucas Brown

Fran's hero status in La Coruna reached new heights after he proudly lifted the Copa Del Rey for Deportivo in the Bernabeu Stadium last month, but he remains largely unknown outside Spain.

In a country that is famed for it's incredible movement of players, the 32-year-old left winger has stayed loyal to the Galician club and has been an icon as they have risen from second division no-hopers to league champions and European bigwigs.

While Diego Tristan and Valeron have won the accolades for Depor's success in the Champions' League this season, Fran remains is their shadows, but as his side prepare for Tuesday's quarter-final clash with Manchester United, it is his name that coach Javier Irureta will be writing first on his team sheet.

Not even Tristan, scorer of two goals at Old Trafford during the group stages, can be sure of his place in the side as Irureta adheres to his strict rotation policy, but Fran's consistency has seen Irureta keep faith in the winger while the rest of the squad battle amongst themselves for the remaining places.

There are not many one-club players left in the top level of Spanish football and that is why supporters value those men that dedicate their career to one cause.

Fran, born in La Coruna, joined Deportivo in the wilderness years of the 1980s when the club almost slipped in to Spain's third division under the guidance of the club's legendary coach Arsenio Iglesias Pardo.

The young star, Francisco Javier Gonzalez Perez to give him his full name, had joined the right club at the right time.

After arriving at from Depor's nursery side Fabril, he was thrown straight into the first team action in 1988 and went onto make 37 appearances as Depor struggled to make any impact on the promotion places.

Another frustrating season followed in 1989-90 when Depor lost in a play-off encounter with Tenerife, but their luck was about to change. Promotion back to the top flight was achieved the following year as Fran became an almost ever-present in the side as the revolution began.

Coaches came and went as Arsenio Iglesias Pardo, Marco Antonio Boronat and Eusebio Rios all took control of first team affairs during his first years at the club.

But Fran was liked by all of them and in his first seven years at the club he played nearly 40 games a season and was hailed by the supporters as one of their own.

Depor were heading for big things and everyone believed that after finishing second and third in the previous two campaigns that 1995 would finally be their year.

The club were already in the Copa Del Rey final and had to win their last game to clinch the championship for the first time in the club's history. "That year was the worst year of my career so far," Fran explained.

In the final minutes of the match Depor were awarded a penalty that would have seen them clinch the title, but the nominated taker Bebeto refused the responsibility and it was left to Goran Djukic to score.

"I will never forget when he missed that penalty. It was lucky that it happened to a player with the character as strong as Djukic's, because I believe that it would have destroyed anyone else," Fran continued.

It was a harsh blow that was only slightly softened by the Cup win at the end of that season when Toshack's side beat Valencia in the extended final in the Bernabeu. But that lesson has served the club well and despite falling away in the following campaigns, a real sense of injustice served to be guiding force in the coming years.

It took five years for that painful memory to be eradicated as Javier Irureta finally led the side to the championship, but again they left it late. "We led the league from start to finish," Fran remembered. "But we were not mathematically assured until the last day again and we really believed that it could happen again.

"Djukic's penalty hung over the place as we met Espanyol on the final day needing to beat them or once again Barcelona would take the championship.

"But they only drew 2-2 with Celta and we won 2-0. When the referee blew his whistle at the end of that game all I could think was that justice had been served."

Throughout the last ten years Fran had become an icon of the club with his surging runs down the wing and pinpoint accurate crossing and he embodied the Deportivo success story.

But his impressive form during the title-winning season saw Fran elevated to the national team and he took his chance as Spain steamrollered his way to the first European Championships of the new Millennium.

Jose Antonio Camacho included him in the squad for the finals, but things did not turn out well for the unsung Galician.

"In the championships in Holland the same thing happened that always happens to our national side, we just did not live up to expectations," he reflected. "We lost the first game to Norway and it seemed that everything that we had achieved in qualifying had been for nothing.

"Because of that performance the coach made many changes and after playing in that game I was never chosen again."

Fran has never received another call from the Spain coach and with the current influx of young stars into the nationals ranks, probably will not again.

"I know that it is very difficult for me to return to the national team, but I never lose hope," he said philosophically.

But the people of La Coruna know his true value. Depor are now one of Europe's elite as they consistently impress in the Champions' League and through it all Fran continues to shine.

The club can attract the games biggest names, but Irureta has stayed loyal to those that have put the club firmly on the map and they have never let him down.

But while the others enjoy the adulation of the fans, none of them will ever be able to replace Fran in the hearts of the Galician faithful. Fran is one of them. A local lad made good at his local club and never a thought that he could seek fame and fortune elsewhere.

There have been plenty of offers, but his extreme loyalty has paid dividends for both the player and the club. There will be no other club for Fran, after he signed a new contract that will keep at the Riazor until 2006 - one month before his 37th birthday, and that is exactly the way he wants it.

enjoy this article...

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Fran is a very good player alone and together with Romero just world class, I couln't want a better left wing than we have now:proud:. He would definitely be good playing for the NT as well, Camacho has just so many players to select from. Vicente and him are the best left wingers in Spain IMO currently, at least Fran could be a sub for the NT for the WC.

Was Fran born in A Coruña? He might come from some surrounding towns and villages but the only player born in the city of A Coruña is Dani Mallo, our third choice young goalkeeper;).
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