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Liverpool winger 'made and named in SA'

Published May 24, 2006


Liverpool, determined to challenge Chelsea for top-dog status in English soccer, will next season look to a footballer "made and named in South Africa" to help them chase down the Premiership champions.

Although he is nicknamed "Speedy", Mark Dennis Gonzalez was named after two Durban Bush Bucks players at his christening in mid-1984.

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Raul Gonzalez, brought to South Africa from Chile by Mario Tuani, was a rugged right-back at Moroka Swallows in the early 1980s before moving to Durban where his new Bush Bucks team-mates included Mark Tovey and Dennis Wicks.

Tovey, Wicks and Gonzalez soon struck up a solid understanding on the pitch and a firm friendship off it.

And when Gonzalez's wife gave birth to a boy on July 10, 1984, the Chilean named his new son after Tovey and Wicks.

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"He just did it, I was honoured, very honoured," recalled Tovey, "the three of us were good friends."

Wicks, a Durbanite like Tovey, remembers Raul Gonzalez as a tremendous fellow and great team-mate.

"He was a super human being, a very humble man and I felt so privileged when he named his son; we went to the christening but it was a long time ago.

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"Unfortunately I'm a Tottenham supporter, but I'll definitely be following his son at Liverpool," said Wicks who moved from Bush Bucks to AmaZulu before retiring.

From Bucks, Gonzalez senior took his family back to Chile where Mark Dennis followed his father's path. He signed as a professional for Universidad Catholica, one of Chile's glamour clubs, based in the country's capital Santiago.

At age 19 he won his first cap before moving to Spain where Albacete coach Paco Herrera recommended Gonzalez to Rafael Benitez.

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Gonzalez, 21, is a left winger with blistering pace and was signed by Liverpool from Albacete a year ago for £3,9-million (about R48-million). Following months waiting for a British work permit, Liverpool manager Benitez sent his new signing on loan to Real Sociadad. That was in January with Sociadad second bottom on La Liga, though they avoided relegation thanks to some fine performances from Gonzalez. He scored five goals in 13 games, including the equaliser in last month's 1-1 draw with Real Madrid and a brilliant 20m volley to down Racing Santander.

Suddenly clubs such as Deportivo and Real Zaragoza were trying to convince Gonzalez to stay in Spain. But a week ago he was back in Liverpool, hoping English civil servants had taken notice of his new profile.

"Spain is a very good league, but I wanted to play here," Gonzalez told the London Sunday Times. "Liverpool offered me a long-term deal, which was a gamble on their part."

In an attempt to minimise the gamble, Gonzalez has applied for Spanish citizenship - as an EU citizen he wouldn't need a work permit - after living there for the past two years and has

re-applied for a permit to work in England.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard already believes in the winger and reckons he'll fit perfectly in with the Reds.

"We trained with him for a couple of weeks before he went back to Spain earlier in the season and it was clear to us all then that he's got loads of ability," Gerrard told the Liverpool website.

Tovey, who went on to play for Kaizer Chiefs before ending his career at Manning Rangers, has seen his namesake play once on television and agrees with Gerrard.

"It was last month when he scored the equaliser for Real Sociedad against Real Madrid... Mark was excellent, the best player on the field."

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