Cult hero: Barcelona's Hungarian Sándor Kocsis

Continuing the series on the game's cult heroes, Champions Matchday profiles Sándor Kocsis, a Budapest innkeeper's son who became one of FC Barcelona's all-time greats.

Sándor Kocsis – a modest man and a prolific goalscorer for both Hungary and Barcelona
Sándor Kocsis – a modest man and a prolific goalscorer for both Hungary and Barcelona ©Getty Images

When Luis Suárez chipped his cross to the back post in Berne, the outcome seemed inevitable. Sándor Kocsis nipped in and headed FC Barcelona into the lead in the 21st minute of the 1961 European Champion Clubs' Cup final and scored one of the most memorable of his 151 goals for the club.

"There has never been anybody better with his head," Gusztáv Sebes, coach of the legendary Magical Magyars, said of the striker whose 11 goals took Hungary to the 1954 FIFA World Cup final. "He had a great leap and combined fierce power with pinpoint accuracy."

Kocsis amassed more than 400 headed goals, getting his 1.77m frame above or – as was the case at Wankdorfstadion in 1961 – in front of his marker, and was dubbed 'The Man With The Golden Head'.

As remarkable as his goalscoring talent, with his feet as well as that famed head, was his character. The son of a Budapest innkeeper, Kocsis was unfailingly modest. Offered a new car by a fan and businessman while at Budapest Honvéd FC, he politely declined, instead choosing what team-mate László Budai described as "an absolute banger".

Kocsis (centre rear) was a Hungary team-mate of Ferenc Puskás (centre front)
Kocsis (centre rear) was a Hungary team-mate of Ferenc Puskás (centre front)©Getty Images

His gentlemanly conduct had a unifying power that Barça coach Helenio Herrera was keen to harness. He made his Catalan players dine with the "more reserved" Hungarians – Zoltán Czibor signed with Kocsis from Young Fellows Zürich in 1958; Ladislao Kubala had been there since 1951 – to forge bonds they would carry onto the pitch.

In 1960, Herrera's Blaugrana side was inherited by Ljubiša Broćić and then, having become in the first round the first team to knock Real Madrid CF out of the European Cup, Enrique Orizaola in the new year.

Barcelona were seconds from elimination in their semi-final, but for Kocsis powering between two Hamburger SV defenders to force a replay with another headed goal.

His header in the final was, unfortunately for him, not as crucial. SL Benfica rallied to win 3-2 – a second heartbreak for Kocsis in the stadium where he had lost the World Cup final.

Champions Matchday is the official magazine of the UEFA Champions League and is available in print or free to download in digital format. You can follow the magazine on Twitter @ChampionsMag.

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