It’s true that there is always a negative to watching a seemingly unsurpassable moment. In its immediate aftermath, it can sometimes, juxtapositionally, feel like a nadir: as bewildering as the best nanosecond can feel, how could you carry on watching for the rest of time, knowing nothing will vanquish it? That was the emotion the majority of the 127,000 plus fans present at Hampden Park on the 18th May 1960 felt on their way home having witnessed Real Madrid triumph 7-3 against Eintracht Frankfurt. It was Los Blancos’ fifth European title in a row, a feat which has not been matched since. It is fair to argue that it is unlikely to ever be, too.
The best sporting chronicles usually begin with a history of enmity between the two sides. This occasion was no different: the game was in doubt because the West German FA had forbidden their teams from competing against any team featuring Ferenc Puskás after the Hungarian had alleged that the national side was guilty of using drugs during the 1950s. The FA allowed the match to go ahead after he had made a formal, written apology. Puskás, ironically, would go on to have a huge impact on the game, as football zealots the world over had become accustomed to since his emergence with Budapest Honvéd in 1943.
The stage was set: Miguel Muñoz and Paul Oßwald’s sides emerged from the tunnel, encased in deep, black Glaswegian smog, and onto the pristine, veritable Hampden pitch. The customary white of Real Madrid and solid red kit with white sleeves of Eintracht Frankfurt embellished their deep, green, floodlight-illuminated backdrop. The clamour of strident, raucous fans filled the night sky. The smell of cigarette smoke, alcohol and the industrial city filled the air. The weight of expectation lay heavy on the shoulders of Real’s Galácticos.
Muñoz’s side had set a precedent in the early epochs of this year’s edition of the European Cup. Having beaten France’s Reims 2-0 in the 1959 final in Stuttgart, they began the following campaign with a 12-2 aggregate victory over Jeunesse Esch of south-western Luxembourg. If beating Jeunesse showed Madrid’s indubitable virtuosity, then their quarter-final victory against France’s Nice evidenced an equal level of resilience which they had rarely called upon during Muñoz’s reign.
At the Stade Municipal de Ray on the French Riviera, Jesús ‘Chus’ Herrera Alonso and Héctor Rial fired the visitors 2-0 ahead after 30 minutes; it was the former’s third goals in five games. The hosts fought back: Victor Nurenberg, a Nice luminary who hailed from Luxembourg, scored a second-half hat-trick to put them a goal ahead going into the second leg at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. Real overturned the deficit with a 4-0 win, goals coming from José García Castro, Francisco Gento, Alfredo Di Stéfano and Puskás.
Barcelona are never ones to be happy to be outdone by their Clásico rivals. Whilst Real had seen off Nice, the Catalans had convincingly beaten Stan Cullis’ Wolverhampton Wanderers 9-2 on aggregate, a club who in the years leading up to the 1960 tournament had seen off Honved and Real amongst a series of floodlit friendlies against some of the best teams in world football. Over the two Clásico legs at the semi-final stage, though, Real ran out 6-2 victors after two 3-1 wins. They were headlined by the supremacy of Di Stéfano and Puskás, who had scored four and seven goals respectively on the journey from Luxembourg to the final in Glasgow.
On the other side of the draw, Frankfurt had followed up their Oberliga Süd title – one of the five regional league competitions in Germany before the formation of the Bundesliga – of 1959 with an impressive debut European Cup showing. They beat BSC Young Boys 5-2 on aggregate in the round of 16, before meeting Austrian side Wiener Sport-Club in the last eight; they triumphed 3-2 on aggregate, after a narrow, well-fought 1-1 draw in the second leg in Vienna.
In the semi-finals they met Rangers. Dieter Stinka put them ahead inside half an hour at the Waldstadion, and they went on to prevail 12-4; in their run to the final, which would see them return to Glasgow, they did not once go behind on aggregate. The Germans’ pragmatic, expedient approach, then, would meet the alacritous Real; in games of such magnitude form and history are extraneous.
Despite the emphatic final scoreline, it was Real’s goalkeeper, Rogelio Dominguez, who was called into action first. He made impressive saves in one-on-one situations from Erwin Stein and Richard Kress in the game’s early stages. Oßwald’s side did take the lead through Kress after 18 minutes. His volley at Dominguez’s near post came after heavy German pressure, and, briefly, it looked as though Real might fail to add to their four European crownswith their opponents’ proficiency on the counter-attack, in Oßwald’s chosen 3-2-2-1-2 formation.
However, within 15 minutes, Di Stéfano’s brace turned the game on its head. First, he tapped home Canário’s cross from the right-hand side, before pouncing on a mistake by goalkeeper Egon Loy to score a second three minutes later.
Still buoyed by their chances in the early minutes, Frankfurt threw bodies forward in search of an equaliser using a direct, long-ball style. The centre-backs Friedel Lutz, Hans-Walter Eigenbrodt and Hermann Höfer looked for their forwards, particularly Stein, who could win flick-ons and shield the ball from Real’s venerable, albeit slight, defenders.
This cavalier approach would contribute to their demise. In first-half injury-time, Puskás broke past the defence to reach a long, hoofed clearance and scored into the roof of the net with his left foot to double his side’s advantage. He scored his second of the game from the penalty spot in the second half after he was fouled by Frankfurt’s captain, Hans Weilbächer. Next he completed his hat-trick to bring the score to 5-1 with a rare header on the hour to complete a sweeping, fast counter-attack which had begun 10 seconds prior after defending a short Frankfurt corner.
The Hampden Park pitch was a racing track: eleven fast, white, unhesitating supercars raced around eleven red traffic cones, reaching the finish line at will. Puskás’ fourth, and Real’s sixth, was arguably the best of his goals: he turned in a crevasse on the edge of the penalty area and fired into the top corner with his back to Loy’s goal. At this point, Real began to relax or tire: in truth, it was probably a mixture of both. Regardless, resting on one’s laurels was dangerous when Stein, who scored 89 goals in 148 games for Frankfurt between 1959 and 1966, was in the opposing front line. Either side of Di Stéfano’s hat-trick goal, he scored a brace in a frantic five minute period as the game came to a close.
There was no time for an unfeasible comeback. Real won its fifth European title and it was among the first of Muñoz’s fourteen trophies as the club’s manager. The Glasgow crowd showed its appreciation of his Galácticos long after the final whistle and after the presentation of the trophy, they paraded around the pitch to the sound of acclamation and appreciation.
The attendance figure remains a record attendance for a European final – and they witnessed probably the best Final of them all. The episode of 1960 would be the final flourish of this Real side on the European stage; the following year, they were eliminated at the round of 16 stage by Barcelona, who exacted their revenge for 1960’s 6-2 drubbing with a narrow 4-3 aggregate win, which was in no small part down to the brilliance of the soon-to-be Ballon d’Or Silver Ball winner, Luis Suárez.
The following season Puskás and Di Stéfano turned 33 and 34 respectively. Real Madrid, of course, remained one of the dangerous of opponents for the remainder of the 20th century and beyond, but their partnership was close to running its cause. It was Amancio Amaro, Evaristo de Macedo, and co. who were tasked with leading the forward line in the forthcoming seasons.
When referee Jack Mowat blew his whistle for the final time in the 1960 European Cup Final, he was not just bringing the greatest final in the competition’s history to an end, but also the denouement of an era on the continental stage for Di Stéfano, Puskás and their venerable teammates.