Many young football players give up on their dream of turning professional in their teens.
Education gets in the way, or they find a job. There’s suddenly less time to play football and real life begins.
But that wasn’t the case for Enric Gallego, who never gave up on his desire to make it as a pro.
Gallego’s story is truly inspiring.
The 32-year-old was signed by Getafe last week, meaning he will play in the Europa League after the La Liga side finished fifth last season.
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Yet Gallego only made his professional debut less than a year ago.
Gallego, a striker, made his pro debut in August 2018 at the age of 31 years and 11 months, starting for Extremadura in a 1-0 defeat to Deportivo La Coruna.
Gallego’s extraordinary rise to the top
Before that, he had played for several amateur clubs including Buen Pastor, Alzamor, Cornella and Badalona.
And Gallego supported his amateur career with a number of working-class jobs, such as lorry driver, builder and air conditioning installer.
A move to Extremadura in January 2018 gave Gallego the chance to get noticed and he took it with both hands, helping the third-tier side achieve promotion to the Segunda Division.
Then came his professional debut, on August 24, 2018.
Gallego netted a hat-trick in a 4-1 win against CF Rayo Majadahonda in September and scored four goals against CF Reus Deportiu in November. He won the Segunda Division’s Player of the Month award for December.
The Spaniard’s performances – he scored 15 goals in under four months – were gathering attention and La Liga side Huesca signed him for €2 million in January 2019.
Finally, he was among the big boys.
“Many people played at a very high level in youth football then for various reasons they never hit the level they expected,” he told Reuters.
“I always trained the same, I was in the same league for many years but then I got an opportunity and I made the most of it.”
Gallego was unable to keep Huesca in La Liga – seven wins from 38 games sealed their fate – but Getafe were clearly impressed with what they saw and have activated his €6m release clause.
And the forward wants his story to be a lesson to all those who want to reach the top.
“If what has happened to me can be an example to other players and motivate them to keep working to take that step up in their own careers, then that’s even better,” he said.
What a remarkable story.