Full name: Ferenc Purczeld Biró
Date of birth: 02/04/1927
Ferenc Puskás is regarded as the greatest Hungarian footballer of all time and was part of the legendary international team known as the Mighty Magyars and the equally legendary Real Madrid team of the late 1950s and early 1960s, which included Alfredo Di Stefano.
Puskás was a prolific left footed striker, or inside forward, and scored 514 goals in 529 league games, and 84 goals in 85 internationals for Hungary. He also made four international appearances for Spain, without scoring. Nicknamed the Galloping Major, Puskás wasn’t built like a footballer. Short, stocky, barrel chested and overweight, he was extremely one footed and couldn’t head the ball!
The Galloping Major
Born in 1927, Puskás joined Kispest AC as a junior. He played under the assumed identity, Miklos Kovacs, until he was 12, and officially old enough to join, and made his first senior appearance for Kispest in November 1943, against Nagyvarad. In 1949, the club was taken over by the Hungarian Ministry of Defence, becoming the Hungarian Army team, and renamed Honved.
With Honved, Puskás won five Hungarian championships and finished as the league’s top scorer four times. In the years in which he finished top scorer, he scored 50 (1947-48 season), 31 (1949-50), 25 (1950) and 27 (1953) goals. He was the top scorer in Europe in 1948. By the time he left in 1956, Puskás had scored a phenomenal 358 goals in 349 games
Puskás made his debut for the Hungarian national team in 1945, at the age of 18, scoring in a 5-2 win over Austria. He formed an integral part of the team that went unbeaten for a world record 32 consecutive games, during which they became Olympic Champions in 1952, beating Yugoslavia 2-0 in the final in Helsinki. He played alongside other greats such as Zoltán Czibor, Sándor Kocsis, József Bozsik and Nándor Hidegkuti.
Puskás was part of the Mighty Magyars team that, in 1953, became the first non-UK team to beat England at Wembley, scoring two of Hungary’s goals as they won 6-3. They also defeated England 7-1 in Budapest a year later.
In the 1954 World Cup, Hungary entered as hot favourites, and Puskás scored three goals in the two first round matches, but then suffered an ankle injury which ruled him out until the final. In the final, despite still showing the effects of his injury, he scored an early goal, and Hungary doubled their advantage to lead 2-0, but opponents West Germany clawed it back and took the lead with six minutes left 3-2. Puskás had a goal controversially disallowed for being offside, ending Hungary’s record four year unbeaten run.
Stranded in Europe
When Honved entered the European Cup in 1956, little did they know they were to see the end of the team as they knew it. After losing 3-2 in the away leg at Atletico Bilbao, the players were left stranded in Europe due to the outbreak of the Hungarian Revolution in Budapest. The return leg, therefore, was arranged to be played at Heysel Stadium in Brussels and the game ended in a 3-3 draw, meaning Honved went out on aggregate 6-5. So, stuck on the continent, the team broke up and many players found clubs in Western Europe, including Puskás, who after a trial with Espanyol, eventually signed for Real Madrid.
Before arriving in Madrid in 1958, Puskás spent a year in Austria, but failed to get a playing permit. He wanted to play in Italy, and Juventus and AC Milan were interested before UEFA placed a two year ban on his shoulders. He piled on the pounds and being the wrong side of 30, clubs were unwilling to take a chance on him. Fortunately, his old Honved manager, Emil Oestreicher, rescued him from the wilderness and took him to the Bernabeu.
Puskás spent eight seasons at Real Madrid, scoring 156 goals in 180 league games and was the league’s top scorer four times. He helped Real win La Liga five times in a row between 1961 and 1965 and the Copa del Generalisimo in 1962, and formed a deadly partnership with the legendary Alfredo Di Stefano.
He played a further 39 games in the European Cup, scoring 35 goals. He helped Real reach the Final of the 1959 European Cup, but missed out through injury. He was back with a bang a year later though, scoring four times in a 7-3 triumph over German side Eintracht Frankfurt.
Two years later in the 1962 final, Puskás scored another hat trick, but Real were defeated 5-3 by Benfica. His third and last European Cup success came in 1966, with a 2-1 win over Partizan Belgrade. In all competitions, he scored 236 goals in 261 games for Madrid.
In 1962, Puskás took Spanish nationality and played four times for Spain at the 1962 World Cup. However, he failed to score as Spain crashed out at the first hurdle, winning just one of their qualifying matches, and finishing bottom of their group.
After retiring as a player, Puskás went on to coach several teams across the world. His finest moment as a coach came in 1971, when he guided Panathinaikos to the European Cup Final, which remains the only time a Greek club has reached a European final. The side lost 2-0 to Ajax at Wembley. He also led the Greek side to two league championships, in 1971 and 1972. His only other success as a manager came with South Melbourne Hellas, whom he led to a National Soccer League title in 1991.
In 1993, he took charge of the Hungarian national team for four matches, having been forgiven for defecting to Spain to avoid the Soviet uprising in his homeland. In all, he coached teams in Spain, USA, Canada, Greece, Paraguay, Chile, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, including Deportivo Alaves, Vancouver Royals, Colo-Colo and AEK Athens.
Puskás was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2000 and died of pneumonia on November 17 2006 aged 79. The Nepstadion in Budapest was renamed the Stadion Puskás Ferenc in his honour in 2002.
- European Cup Top Scorer: 1964, 1960
- Pichichi Trophy: 1964, 1963, 1961, 1960
- Silver Ball European Footballer of the Year: 1960
- Hungarian Top Goalscorer: 1953, 1950, 1948
- World Player of the Year: 1953, 1952
- Named in FIFA 100
- European Player of the Century XX
- Hungarian Player of the Century XX
- Hungarian Top Goalscorer of the Century XX
|1943-1949||Kispest A.C.||177 (187)|
|1957||Espanyol (guest)||n/a (n/a)|
|1958-1966||Real Madrid||182 (157)|