This Philippine-born player topped Barcelona's goal-scoring record for 87 years
April 23, 2018 | 3:32 PM
by Times News Service
Paulino Alcantara. Photo:

Muscat: Long before a little Argentinian emerged from the La Masia academy to light up the record books at Barcelona, a Filipino athlete had already conquered the world of Spanish football, earning a place in the hearts and minds of generations of Blaugrana supporting Catalans.

Born in 1896, the exploits of the great Paulino Alcantara remain untouchable to the vast majority of football stars and it took one Lionel Messi the better part of a decade to finally overthrow him as FC Barcelona's goal scoring king.

The story of Paulino Alcantara begins, as strange as it may sound, in the province of Ilolio on Pinay Island, more than 600 kilometres from the Filipino capital of Manila. There, Paulino was born the son of a Spanish military officer and a local woman. As a young boy, he moved to Spain where in 1912, he was discovered by Joan Gamper, the Swiss-born founder of FC Barcelona.

Nearly a hundred years before icons like Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda left football fans in Europe stunned, Paulino would play his first game for Barcelona aged just 16 years old, netting a hat trick on his debut. Alcantara, through 15 seasons at the club, would go on to score 369 goals in 357 games. He would be the club's leading goalscorer until Lionel Messi eclipsed his record on March 16, 2014, 87 years after Alcantara retired.

But his goalscoring exploits were not limited to Spain's elite division. The legend would go on to represent the Philippines internationally, helping them thrash Japan 15-2 in the Far Eastern Championships, a result that remains a record for both nations till this day.

However, he would also represent Spain and Catalonia, earning the nickname 'El Rompe Redes' or 'netbuster' when a shot against France ripped the back of a net and kept going.

What makes Alcantara stand out is not just his incredible origins but the consistent goal-scoring exploits that only a player such as Messi — regarded by some as one of the greatest of all time — could match.

Paulino would retire from football in 1927 to become a doctor but would later go on to serve on Barcelona's Board of Directors.

Despite the massive success Alcantara enjoyed during his playing days and his reverence in Europe, his name is largely unknown in his homeland. Some claim this is due to the fact that the Philippines lacks a strong football culture, while others say it is due to the fact that his playing days occurred in an era without internet and so far from his home country.

But that is soon changing, as the beautiful game continues to gain a foothold in the Philippines. And just as one Argentinian dreamed of equalling the exploits of a certain net buster, many Filipino players already have a legendary figure to look up to as they chart their own paths in the world of football.

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