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Puskás, Hungary's greatest

Published: Saturday 18 November 2006, 0.20CET
To help mark UEFA's Jubilee in 2004, Hungary chose Ferenc Puskás - who passed away today at the age of 79 - as the country's greatest footballer of all time.
by Márton Dinnyés
from Budapest

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Published: Saturday 18 November 2006, 0.20CET

Puskás, Hungary's greatest

To help mark UEFA's Jubilee in 2004, Hungary chose Ferenc Puskás - who passed away today at the age of 79 - as the country's greatest footballer of all time.

uefa.com remembers Ferenc Puskás, chosen as Hungary's Golden Player to mark the UEFA Jubilee in 2004.

He was a star player for Kispest Honvéd FC and Real Madrid CF. He led Panathinaikos FC to the European Champion Clubs' Cup final as a coach. And now he gives his name to Hungary's national stadium.

Early starter
It is no surprise that Ferenc Puskás is his country's Golden Player. Puskás remains the greatest name in Hungarian football. Born in Budapest on 2 April 1927, his first mentor was his father, a coach with Kispest Athletic Club where Ferenc played under an assumed identity - Miklós Kovács - until his 12th birthday when he was officially old enough to join in.

Childhood friends
Even before then he had met his best friend and future international colleague, József Bozsik, who would win 101 caps to Puskás's 85. "I was three or four years old when Bozsik moved into our neighbourhood," he explained. "We soon became friends and had a secret sign - if I knocked on the wall, it meant: let's go and play football."

On the ball
Puskás was blessed with one of the best left feet in the history of the game, yet it was the ball which, he always said, was his "kabala" or lucky charm: "I'm only calm when I have it with me." With it, the inside-forward won five Hungarian championships with Honvéd, was the league's top scorer on four occasions, claimed an Olympic gold medal in 1952, and finished runner-up at the 1954 FIFA World Cup as Hungary surprisingly lost to Germany.

Wembley win
He was a national celebrity and there is a publicity shot of him and his 'Magical Magyars' team-mates laying the foundations at the Népstadion, now the Ferenc Puskás stadium. That Hungarian side was perhaps most famous for beating England 6-3 at Wembley on 25 November 1953, when Puskás scored two of his 84 international goals. However, the team broke up with the 1956 Revolution, which erupted at a time when Honvéd were touring abroad.

Conquering Europe
Puskás duly joined Real Madrid, where he further embellished his reputation. Playing alongside Alfredo Di Stéfano, Francisco Gento and Luis Del Sol, he registered 324 goals in 372 games for the Spanish giants (finishing as the Primera División's leading marksman for four seasons), and was involved in seven Spanish title triumphs and three successful European Cup campaigns - most notably in 1959/60, when he scored four times in the 7-3 final victory against Eintracht Frankfurt.

Galloping Major
Watching television images of that match, it becomes clear that the 'Galloping Major' didn't actually do too much leg work. Instead, he moved slowly but inexorably towards goal before letting fly shots from all possible angles and distances.

On the bench
Puskás eventually retired from playing in 1966. He would coach teams in Spain, the United States, Canada, Paraguay, Chile, Saudi Arabia and Egypt until, in 1993, he took charge of the Hungarian national side for four fixtures. Yet the highlight of his career on the bench came in Greece with Panathinaikos, whom he guided to the European Cup final in 1970/71. It is through his exploits on the pitch, however, that he has the status of a sporting legend.

Last updated: 18/11/06 16.53CET

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