Flórián Albert, the 1967 European Footballer of the Year who is regarded as one of the most elegant players of all time, has died aged 70 after complications following heart surgery.
Albert was admitted to hospital a fortnight ago in Budapest, the city where the Ferencvárosi TC favourite spent most of his life after moving there as a child. He underwent an operation on Friday and though the initial prognosis was positive, Albert passed away early this morning.
A graceful, free-scoring forward, Albert spent his entire club career at Ferencváros. He scored 256 goals in 351 league matches for the Green Eagles in a career that spanned 16 years before injury ended his playing days in 1974. He won four championships, a Hungarian Cup and the 1965 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, beating Juventus in the Turin final. Ferencváros's stadium now bears his name.
Yet it is on the international stage that Albert gained broadest acclaim, picking up the 1967 Ballon d'Or – he remains the only Hungarian to win the prize. At 20 he had been joint-top goalscorer at the 1962 FIFA World Cup and was an inspriational figure as Hungary came third at the 1964 UEFA European Championship. In all Albert, the son of a blacksmith, scored 31 goals in 75 caps.
In a 2004 interview, he told UEFA.com: "Hungary has a tradition of great players, and in this country everyone knows what that entails: When 80,000 people are expecting a certain finish, the player decides to do something different and scores his own way. The important thing is that whenever we had a star player he left his imprint on the Hungarian game for a decade." Albert's contribution has lasted much longer than that.
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