Leonardo “Leo” Neoren Franco (born 20 May 1977) is an Argentine former professional footballer who played as a goalkeeper, and is a manager.
After starting out at Independiente in 1995, he went on to spend the vast majority of his career in Spain, playing 328 La Liga matches over 14 seasons in representation of Mallorca, Atltico Madrid and Zaragoza.
An Argentine international for two years, Franco appeared for the nation at the 2006 World Cup.
Born in San Nicols de los Arroyos, Buenos Aires Province, Franco started his career at Club Atltico Independiente, moving at the age of 20 to Spain with CP Mrida where he did not appear in La Liga, barred by Carlos Navarro Montoya and suffering team relegation. In the following year he joined RCD Mallorca, spending his first season with their reserves and again dropping down a tier, now in Segunda Divisin.
Franco would be however promoted to the Balearic Islands club’s first team, going on to establish himself as the starter after replacing compatriot Carlos Roa in the pecking order. In the 2000-01 campaign he appeared in 27 matches as Mallorca finished in a best-ever third position, and helped win the Copa del Rey two years after.
Franco was signed by Atltico Madrid in June 2004, being first-choice from the beginning. Until the end of 2007-08 he saved seven penalties, including two against Sevilla FC on 23 March 2006 (0-1 home loss) and two more at Real Betis on 2 December (1-0 win). Precisely during that season, he was challenged by newly signed Christian Abbiati (loaned by A.C. Milan), but regained his starting status in 2008-09, relegating veteran Grgory Coupet to the bench.
On 1 July 2009, aged 32, after not seeing his contract renewed, Franco left the Vicente Caldern Stadium – as Coupet – and signed with Galatasaray S.K. from Turkey. His first Sper Lig appearance took place on 9 August, in a 3-2 away win against Gaziantepspor.
Franco returned to Spain after only one year, joining Real Zaragoza on a two-year deal. He made his competitive debut on 29 August 2010, keeping a clean sheet at Deportivo de La Corua in a 0-0 draw.
Franco left Aragon in the summer of 2014, and subsequently moved to San Lorenzo de Almagro. On 24 July 2015, after appearing rarely, he moved to SD Huesca, newly promoted to the Spanish second level.
On 19 August 2016, Franco announced his retirement at the age of 39 and was immediately named director of external relations at his last club. On 29 May 2018, he replaced the departing Rubi as first-team manager in view of their first-ever season in the top flight, being dismissed on 9 October due to poor results.
With the Argentina under-20 team, Franco won the 1997 FIFA World Youth Championship in Malaysia. On 6 May 2006, two years after making his debut for the senior side, he was selected by coach Jos Pekerman – also the manager of the under-20s – to the squad for the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
On 30 June 2006, Franco replaced injured Roberto Abbondanzieri in the quarter-final clash against hosts Germany, failing to save one single penalty shootout attempt.
Appearances and goals by club, season and competitionClubSeasonLeagueCupEuropeTotalDivisionAppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoalsIndependiente1995-96Argentine Primera Divisin10–101996-9710–10Total20000020Mrida1997-98La Liga00–00Total00000000Mallorca B1998-99Segunda Divisin230–230Total2300000230Mallorca1999-00La Liga30020703902000-0127050-3202001-0222010703002002-0336060-4202003-043302030380Total14801601701810Atltico Madrid2004-05La Liga37070504902005-0634020-3602006-0732020-3402007-08180-302102008-093201080410Total15301201601810Galatasaray2009-10Sper Lig26000110370Total26000110370Zaragoza2010-11La Liga23000002302011-12000000002012-134060001002013-14Segunda Divisin4000000190Total6706000730San Lorenzo2014Argentine Primera Divisin0010-1020153010-40Total30200050Huesca2015-16Segunda Divisin28010-290Total2801000290Career total45003704405310
- As of 7 October 2018
Managerial record by team and tenureTeamNatFromToRecordRefGWDLGFGAGDWin %Huesca3 June 20189 October 2018812571811012.50Total812571811012.50