Football mourned the loss of some of its most cherished figures during 2006. Ferenc Puskás, the inspiration behind the Magical Magyars; Giacinto Facchetti, the FC Internazionale Milano great; Pietro Rava, the last survivor of the Italy side which won the 1938 World Cup; and Jimmy Johnstone, Celtic FC's best player, were some of the game's legends who sadly passed away this year.
"He was one of the best players of all time," was how former Real Madrid CF team-mate Alfredo Di Stéfano described Puskás as tributes poured in on the morning of the Hungarian's death in Budapest on 17 November. Puskás died aged 79 after a long illness, but his memory will live on in the minds of those lucky enough to have seen the Galloping Major play. Quite simply Puskás was Hungary's greatest player, and one of the best the world has seen. He struck a world-record 84 goals in 85 full internationals and helped his side win the 1952 Olympic Games as well as reach the 1954 World Cup final. He won all there was going at club level, including seven league championships and the European Champion Clubs' Cup with Madrid - the highlight being his record four-goal haul in the 7-3 victory against Eintracht Frankfurt in the 1959/60 final.
Like Puskás, Facchetti was synonymous with one of Europe's all-time great sides. He was a key member of the 'Grande Inter' team that won the European Cup in 1964 and 1965 - still their only triumphs - and also featured in four Serie A-winning sides. He captained Italy 70 times including their UEFA European Championship final victory against Yugoslavia in 1968 and the World Cup final loss to Brazil two years after that. Facchetti died on 4 September and sadly, Italian football was plunged into mourning again two months later with the news that Rava, the last survivor of the Italy side which won the 1938 World Cup, had died aged 90. A combative left-back with Juventus, Rava also helped Italy win Olympic gold in 1936.
Celtic's greatest player Jimmy Johnstone died at the age of 61 on 13 March. Johnstone, who had been suffering from motor neurone disease, was part of the Scottish club's famous Lisbon Lions team that won the 1966/67 European Cup, beating Inter 2-1 in the final. Nicknamed Jinky for his dazzling wing play and dribbling skills, Johnstone scored more than 100 goals for Celtic and earned 23 caps for Scotland, scoring twice. Celtic fans voted him the club's greatest player in 2002.
Other influential figures to pass away in 2006 include, Ron Greenwood, the former West Ham United FC and England manager, Miroslav Meho Brozović the former Yugoslavia captain, Chelsea FC player Peter Osgood and Soviet Union coach Konstantin Beskov. Beskov was the last surviving member of the FC Dinamo Moskva side that was the first from the Soviet Union to tour Britain in 1945. But it was as a coach that the former striker will be best remembered, with many considering him an equal to the late FC Dynamo Kyiv coach Valeriy Lobanovskiy in the annals of Soviet football. France mourned the loss of two former internationals from the 1950s, André Strappe and Joseph Ujlaki, while Germany and Austria mourned Max Merkel, who won international caps for both countries as well as coaching clubs to titles in those countries as well as Spain.
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