December 18, 2022 will be marked forever in Gonzalo Montiel’s career. The defender was in charge of take the last penalty of the batch that triggered the victory of the Argentine National Team over France, in the final of the World Cup in Qatar.
The former River Plate right-back took on such responsibility for the guilt that was eating him away, since minutes before the end of extra time a shot from Kylian Mbappé hit his right hand inside the big area, and the Polish referee Szymon Marciniak awarded a penalty for the French national team that the PSG striker turned into a goal to declare the tie in three goals.
At the end of the 120 minutes, coach Lionel Scaloni approached the Sevilla defender to ask him if he wanted to be one of the performers and received a positive response. Immediately afterwards, Pujato’s man delivered the list of the five chosen and it was Montiel who ended up defining everything. The player walked slowly from the middle of the field, grabbed the ball and without looking at Hugo Lloris or the destination of his shot, crossed the shot to the right post with a low shot, which unleashed eternal happiness for the new world champions in Doha, in Argentina and in every place on the planet.
“He never looks at the goalkeeper, because he already knows where he is going to kick. He is a very practical player. He puts the ball and evidently has chosen where he goes. But he doesn’t announce anything until he puts his supporting foot close to the ball. He hits it firm, dry, he doesn’t give the goalkeeper a chance if he didn’t choose the stick. He does not take previous turns ”, he reveals in dialogue with Libero Bruno Quinteros, one of the many trainers he had in his short career.
“When he started kicking in River, all those who were technically above average had missed and it seemed that nobody could take a penalty. However, when it was his turn, he never made a mistake,” said the technical director who met him in baby soccer at the Brisas del Sud club, and later trained him both in children’s and in the millionaire reserve.
But before his debut in the highest category, Montiel had to go through difficult moments in his life, since he lived in Viceroy del Pino, in González Catán, where his father Tito was a bricklayer and his mother Marissa a cleaning worker, and he was part of a humble family to which It was hard for him to make ends meet.
While his parents worked, Gonzalo accompanied his maternal grandfather, Luis, who went out to sell fruit in his car. It was Marissa’s father who gave her the middle name Ariel, after her fanaticism with “Burrito” Ortega. But at the age of seven, the future soccer player suffered the first misfortune of his life. His grandfather died in a street fight with a neighbor. From that moment on, the defender began to dedicate all his goals to him, as happened when the ball kissed the net in one of the arches of the Lusail stadium and the national team would later become world champion.
After the loss of their grandfather, Tito and Marissa made a huge sacrifice for Gonzalo to be an athlete. His soccer history began in Virrey del Pino, when his father took him at the age of four to play for the nearest club, and then he went to the baby of El Tala, in his area of residence. At 10 years old, and after not having stayed in Boca (he was on trial for six months and left) nor in Hurricane (it was tried and it did not fit), He went to test himself at River where the talent scout Luis Pereyra gave him sports trials at Villa Martelli, where Tecnópolis is located today, and was satisfied with his performance.
From that moment, his life changed forever. Every day she had to show up at that property to train. When his parents couldn’t come with him, usually on weekdays, I was only traveling two and a half hours there and back. He took two buses and a van to fulfill the dream of playing for the club of his love.
“The parents were managed collectively. Eventually they bought a car. But at first they suffered cold and fear, because their neighborhood was very rough. They always had to leave early and begged for the bus to arrive quickly. Gonzalo had to show up at seven in the morning to train and they left at four. It wasn’t easy at all,” recalls Sergio Colombatto, a family friend and father of Santiago, Montiel’s teammate in all the lower divisions.
From a very young age, Gonzalo made important decisions. After traveling alone for a while, he asked his parents to live in the millionaire pension because he couldn’t take the daily commute anymore. So at 12 he started with a new adaptation, although it was quite difficult at first. “It was difficult for him to stay in the pension because he is very familiar and attached to Tito and Marissa. He did not get used to this new life but he was convinced that he had to reach First Division, he made the effort and that paid off”, says Colombatto.
Once installed in the pension it was his father who began to miss him. “I don’t know what I’m going to do now because I’m used to being with him always. They put it in my pension and it’s not easy,” Tito said at the time. While, His mother suffered a depressive picture from having him away and seeing him very little, but her son never found out because she hid it quite well. Over time, both assumed that their son had to stay in the club’s pension to achieve their goal. Of course, when Gonzalo had the weekend off he returned to his neighborhood where he kicked penalties for silver in the pastures of Catán, and to be close to his parents and his sister Jacqueline from him.
“Those championships for penalties for money are common in the most humble neighborhoods. And in Catan it was no exception. Like Gonzalo, others like Alan Leonardo Díaz also participated,” says Quinteros, who was his first coach in the River Plate inferiors. First, he had it in Pre-ninth and then he was molding it until he took it to the Reserve.
What’s more, the coach still keeps the review he wrote in 2009 when they met again in River’s children’s soccer: “The coordinator asked us for information and I wrote: ‘Scoreboard or central midfielder. Great temperament and delivery. It infects colleagues. He excels at either position.’ Any coach who has had it will tell you that it started with Montiel, that it was Gonzalo and 10 others. He has a constancy, perseverance and an admirable attitude. That’s why I’m not surprised about the penalties: he has personality and he has plenty of it ”.
Although he clarifies that “Montiel did not grow up being a specialist in penalties”, and tells an anecdote that happened in Children: “It was the penultimate date of the tournament and we played against Argentinos. At the last minute the goalkeeper kicked one of our boys and the referee charged a penalty. Those of Argentinos Jr. and the game was delayed like ten minutes. Gonzalo had the ball in his hand, he wanted to execute the penalty, but it wasn’t the one in charge, it was Santiago Colombatto (today in Famalicão de Portugal). A barbaric mess arose and Gonzalo continued with the ball in his hand. We told him that Chicho (Colombatto) was executed, who ended up spoiling the penalty. I think that Gonzalo, from a distance, when he was crazy, his parents fighting and getting into the field, I would have kicked it naturally because I knew I could do it. He is very convinced, when he is inside a court, of what he can give. That is Gonzalo, ”describes his former coach.
From the lower millionaires they called him “Cachete” because he was skinny and with a round face. When they pronounced his nickname, he would get angry, but he gradually accepted it and it stayed with him forever. “He is a very good boy and shy. He was the one who stood out from the rest and made a difference. He was small, but he had barbaric strength and a strong personality. He did not like (nor does he like) losing to anything. He was horny, especially when they faced Boca, because he has red and white blood. He began to play as a central midfielder, which is his natural position. Later, he developed as the first central marker until Marcelo Gallardo placed him as a right back. ”, describes Colombatto, who has known him for 15 years, and still maintains a bond with his family.
He also remembers when in 2011 he invited the millionaire ninth division squad (which became champion) to the town of Ucacha, Córdoba, to spend a long weekend. “I brought all the boys to my town to my house. They stayed for three days: Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Gonzalo slept at my old lady’s house. I cooked him lamb and suckling pig on the grill, and he was fascinated. Later, it became one of his favorite foods along with lentils. But when he grew up, he became more delicate and took care of himself with food. He went from hamburgers to salad. I didn’t drink coke and I did drink mineral water. He took great care of himself,” Colombatto asserts.
His efforts eventually paid off. Because since his arrival at the Núñez team he was captain in almost all categories. Even the Reserve played as a defender and alternated as central midfielder, and he was crowned champion with the Eighth in 2012, with the Sixth in 2014 and runner-up with the Seventh in 2013 and in the Reserve in 2015.
After several years of sacrifice and full training, on April 30, 2016 he was able to debut in the First Division with the River shirt. With the passage of time, that youthful beginner became a fundamental footballer for Gallardo who considered him the undisputed starter and called him a “fireman”, since he could put him in any position and he complied.
Since he received his first salary as a soccer player, he has collaborated so that Tito and Marissa can finish their house in Ezeiza, and fulfill the promise to his mother to finish high school to give her the title. In addition, he helped to invest in cabins in Entre Ríos, the province where his parents are from, to use as rentals, and he gave them a motor home so that they can go for a walk through the Argentine Republic.
It was in 2018 when Montiel suffered the second misfortune in his life. Two of his friends from Virrey Del Pino They died from criminal situations. “He is not a very expressive boy, but emotionally the loss of his two friends hurt him a lot. But he never put his arms down, nor did he stop training. He never lowered his level of play”, remarks Quinteros, who ran into Gonzalo through the corridors of the Monumental.
Beyond the adversities, Montiel remained as a starter and was fundamental in obtaining the 2018 Copa Libertadores, with a historic victory against Boca at the Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid. after years later, He was sold to Sevilla of Spain in exchange for 11 million euros. In 2021, he won the Copa América with the Argentine team at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, being part of the team that won the 1-0 victory against Brazil. A year later, became champion at Wembley Stadium in London, against Italy for the Finalissima, and last December he corroborated how much the World Cup weighs when consecrated in the World Cup in Qatar. For these titles, Gonzalo has three stars tattooed on his neck.