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He is one of the most recognisable names in world football, but how much do we really know about Ferenc Puskas? The former Real Madrid star is still considered one of the best footballers of all-time following a glittering career which spanned 23 years.
Puskas made his name in his native Hungary before making the switch to Spain where he won a whole host of trophies and enjoyed much success with the mighty Madrid side of the era.
Even to this day, football fans all over the globe celebrate one of the most naturally gifted football players the game has ever witnessed. Here, we take a look back through Puskas’ amazing career.
Starting out with junior side Kispest AC, Puskas went on to play for newly formed military side Budapest Honved in 1943. At the time, football players in Hungary were given military rank and Puskas became a ‘major’, which led to his well-renowned nickname of “The Galloping Major”.
Honved used conscription to sign the best players across Hungary and Puskas was joined at the army club by future international teammates Zoltan Czibor and Sandor Kocsis. During his years with Honved, Puskas won five Hungarian league titles.
International recognition soon followed for Puskas, and he made his debut for Hungary in 1945 against Austria; getting on the scoresheet in a 5-2 win. His first of five international hat-tricks came against Luxembourg in 1946, but Puskas was most notably part of the “Golden Team” featuring Czibor, Kocsis, Jozsef Bozsik and Nandor Hidegkuti which was at its peak in 1953. English football fans will certainly remember one of Puskas’ finest moments in a Hungary jersey, scoring two braces against the Three Lions in a 6-3 win at Wembley and a 7-1 victory in Budapest in 1953 and ‘54 respectively.
The 1954 World Cup in Switzerland was supposed to be the defining moment of Puskas’ international career, but the Hungarians were shocked 3-2 by West Germany in the final. The defeat was even more damaging for Puskas and co. considering they trounced the Germans 8-2 in a group stage game. However Puskas did at least enjoy success at international level when Hungary won the gold medal at the 1952 Olympics. By the end of his international career with Hungary, Puskas had notched up 84 goals in 85 appearances. Not bad going!
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Puskas made the switch to Spanish giants Real Madrid in 1958 after missing two years of football because of a UEFA ban for not returning to Hungary when the Soviets invaded the country. By the time he made his Los Blancos debut, Puskas was 31-years-old but still managed to go on and lift three European Cups.
He scored an impressive 156 goals in 221 appearances for Madrid which places him fourth in the overall list of the club’s top scorers. In Europe, he scored 35 goals in 39 appearances which just further affirms just how good Puskas was in his day. In 1966, Puskas called time on a stellar playing career that yielded 514 club goals in 530 appearances and went into management a year later with San Francisco Golden Gate.
Management and after football
Although his first spell of management didn’t work out how Puskas might have hoped for, he went on to manage teams across the world including ones from North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. Puskas’ most prominent spell as a manager was when he led Panathinaikos to the European Cup final in 1971, the only Greek side to reach the final to date. Although ‘The Galloping Major’ was unsuccessful on that occasion, you can try and go one better by predicting the winner of this year’s competition; find all the Champions League odds on Betfair
He did lift the Greek Championship one year later then later won a National Soccer League title with South Melbourne Hellas in 1991. Puskas also spent some time as Hungary’s national boss which included a notable 4-2 win over the Republic of Ireland before he retired completely from the game in 1993.