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Just How Good was Hungarian Ferenc Puskas?

Hungarian legend Ferenc Puskas, considered by many to be among the greatest soccer players of all time, lost his battle with pneumonia Friday morning at the age of 79. Jonathan Wilson of The Guardian calls him "one of the two greatest European players of all time," alongside Dutch master Johan Cruyff. Puskas played on the fabled Hungary team that was heavily favored to win the 1954 World Cup. The Hungarians, of course, famously lost, 3-2, to West Germany in the final. Puskas was the captain of that great team, nicknamed the Mighty Magyars; he himself carried the nickname "the Galloping Major" because he knew how to get the best out of teammates. Teammates often complained about Puskas' influence over coaches and his demonstrative attitude on the field, but there was no questioning his leadership. A very left-footed player, Puskas once said, "You can only kick with one foot at a time, otherwise you fall on your arse." The Guardian's Miller says Puskas, who never won the European Player of the Year Award, was a more influential player than George Best, Michel Platini, Franz Beckenbauer and Zinedine Zidane. "It is sad news," Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson says. "How they did not win the World Cup in 1954 is beyond me." At club level, Puskas played for Honved in Hungary for several years before moving on to Real Madrid in 1956. He played for Los Merengues for 11 years alongside the great Argentine Alfredo Di Stefano, where he won five Spanish championships, 4 top scorer awards and the European Cup. He also scored an amazing 512 goals in 528 appearances. Puskas assumed Spanish citizenship in 1962, just in time for the 1962 World Cup, where he made four appearances but did not score any goals. He went on to coach in 10 countries, including stints in San Francisco and Toronto when pro soccer started in North America in 1967.

Read the whole story at The Guardian »

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