Ferenc Puskas was the key to Hungary's 6-3 demolition of England fifty years ago to the day. TheFA.com looks back.
Ferenc Puskas, the greatest Hungarian player of all time, was at the forefront of the brilliant, revolutionising 'Magnificent Magyars' team that, under the management of Gusztáv Sebes, completely changed the face of European football in the early 1950's...
The possessor of an incredibly powerful left foot shot, Puskás – nicknamed the Galloping Major – has a goalscoring record at both club and international levels that is legendary and is one that few players before or since can match.
With Puskás’ goals, Honved lifted the league title a total of four times and in 1952 he captained Hungary to the Olympic gold medal before bringing his talents to England a year later for one of the most famous matches of all time.
The English, previously undefeated against all continental opposition, were brought to their knees as Puskás' sublime skills inspired a 6-3 rout at Wembley. Before the game an England player said "look at that little fat chap - we'll murder this lot" but before long, it was Hungary who were killing off England.
Puskás scored twice and partner-in-crime Nandor Hidegkuti registered a hat-trick as Hungary changed the footballing landscape forever.
Hungary thus went into the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland as favourites to lift the trophy – after all, they had gone four years unbeaten and possessed the strongest front line of any team in the world.
In the group stages, the Olympic champions proved to be the team to watch out for as they started out by beating South Korea 9-0 and West Germany, amazingly, 8-3.
In the quarter-finals Puskás, who had picked up an injury against the Germans, sat the game out as his side battled to a 4-2 win over Brazil in a match that quickly became known as the Battle of Berne. Puskás' injury also kept him out of the semi-final against Uruguay, which Hungary won 4-2 in extra time.
In the final, against West Germany, the unthinkable happened as the Germans came from behind to beat the Magical Magyars 3-2 after extra time. For Puskás, still struggling with fitness, it was the end of a dream as Sebes’ side started to go their separate ways.
The Hungarian uprising of 1956 came as Honved were
in Spain, playing a European Cup tie against Athletic Bilbao. Puskás, along with team-mates Kocsis and Czibor, decided to defect to the West where their reputations had grown strong over the previous few years.
Banned from playing by UEFA, Puskás and his fellow exiles toured Europe and South America, including playing in Madrid against a Select XI in November 1956.
Having spent time in Austria and Italy, Puskás spent a year out of action before finally being brought to the Bernabeu by former Honved manager Emil Oestreicher. Real convinced UEFA to lift the ban on Puskás’ eligibility and in 1958/59, the Galloping Major made his Real debut.
His signing completed the great Madrid line-up of Alfredo Di Stefano, Francisco Gento,
José Héctor Rial and Enrique Mateos.
In all he was the Spanish league's top scorer four times and whilst at the Bernabeu he helped Real to five championships and three more European Cups, including the legendary 1960 win when, in one of the greatest matches of all time, the Hungarian helped himself to four goals as Real thrashed a hapless Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3.
After 1960, the Real side started to break-up but Puskás was still there for the 1966 Final which the Spanish lost 5-3 to Benfica. Now aged 35, he scored all three goals for Real and in all finished with 240 goals in 260 appearances.
One of the greatest players of all time, Puskás along with his fellow brilliant Hungarians Nándor Hidegkúti, Sandor Kocsis and Zoltan Czibor were responsible for bringing English football out of a previous, outdated era.