MADRID: Marquitos, the central defender who scored a crucial goal for Real Madrid in their historic first European Champions Cup Final triumph back in 1956, has died aged 79 after a long illness.

The death of Marcos Alonso Imaz – his full name – in his home city of Santander means that only five of that team still survive: fullbacks Angel Atienza and Rafael Lesmes, winghalf Jose Maria Zarraga, centre-forward Alfredo Di Stefano who is Madrid’s honorary president and left-winger Paco Gento who heads the club’s veterans’ association.

Marquitos, born on April 16, 1932, signed for Racing Santander at 18, played briefly for the club’s junior side Rayo Cantabria, then made his senior team debut at rightback against Celta in Vigo in December 1951. In 1954 he was sold to Real Madrid who switched him to centreback to solve an injury crisis.

In the 1956 Champions’ final in Paris, Madrid were 2-0 down to Reims after 10 minutes, recovered to 2-2 then conceded another goal early in the second half. With time running out Marquitos charged forward, exchanged passes with Di Stefano, passed the ball on to Ramon Marsal and was still running when the latter’s shot was only parried by the Reims keeper.

Marquitos shot the loose ball home for the equaliser and Madrid, encouraged, went on to win 4-3. It was the first of their five successive victories. Marquitos was a winner in 1957, lost his place to Uruguayan Jose Santamaria then regained a first-team role back at rightback. He was a member of the team who thrashed Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 in the so-called ‘greatest game’ in May 1960.

In 1961 injury to Santmaria meant Marquitos was briefly restored to the centre of defence for a rare Spanish cup final victory over Sevilla. He left Madrid for Hercules of Alicante in 1962 and wound down his career with Murcia, Calvo Sotelo and Toluca – the latter along with other ex-Madrid veterans such as keeper Jose Vicente, fellow defenders Pachin and Pedro Casado and forwards Felix Ruiz and Enrique Mateos.

Pachin, currently in Guatemala on behalf the club, said: “He was more than just a team-mate to many of us, he was a friend, a big brother.”

 ** Three members of the current Real Madrid team have been included in an all-time XI chosen by fans in an internet poll. The team: Iker Casillas – Sergio Ramos, Fernando Hierro, Roberto Carlos – Michel, Zinedine Zidane, Fernando Redondo, Cristiano Ronaldo – Raul, Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas.

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