Puskas, matchless man of the match
REPLAY: 1960. Day a Magical Magyar dazzled even brighter than before
Sunday 19 November 2006
Strangely enough, the DVD of the 1960 European Cup final opens to the strains of "Jerusalem". At a distance of 46 years, in the days before colour television and action replays, that time does seem to border on the ancient as the players of Real Madrid and Eintracht Frankfurt line up in what is not so much a black and white as a fuzzy grey picture. It was on Scottish turf, though, rather than England's green mountains that those feet famously walked.
And what glorious feet they were. Nearly half a century has rolled by, and Ferenc Puskas has now sadly passed on - he died on Friday at the age of 79 - but there is a timeless, immortal quality to the footwork he performed at Hampden Park on the evening of 18 May, 1960. "Truly bewildering," Kenneth Wolstenholme says as the Magical Magyar mesmerises the Frankfurt defence and leaves the spellbound 127,621 spectators gasping in awe.
Puskas was 33 at the time and confessed later: "I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach beforehand. I was thinking, 'You are not 20 any more. Are you up to this?' "
He was up to it, all right. From his first touch, when he puts a colleague in on goal in the opening seconds with a deft swoosh of his left foot, the great Hungarian measures up to every inch of his legend. And more.
So, for that matter, do the rest of the Real Madrid masters. When Frankfurt manage to break out for their first attack Jose Marquitos, Real's right full-back, clears the ball from the unguarded goalmouth with a nonchalant back-heel flick.
"For those of you who are switching at 7.35 on to see The Moneymakers," Wolstenholme says, "you are watching the real money-makers because the Real Madrid players are on £650 a man to win the European Cup. That's 10 times more than the Eintracht players."
That is a fortune in 1960 terms, yet it is difficult to put a price on Puskas's talents. Sure, his tucked-in shirt is struggling to hold in the unmistakable pot of his belly but his speed of movement never lags behind his obvious mental sharpness. That much is clear when he pounces to rifle in a left-foot shot that gives Real a 3-1 cushion at half-time.
What follows thereafter is football of the truly sublime - right up there with the Brazilian World Cup blend of 1970 and the Dutch total voetbal of the same decade. And possibly beyond. It even surpassed the tormenting of England at Wembley by Puskas's Hungary seven years earlier.
In their second-half masterclass, Puskas, Alfredo Di Stefano, Francisco Gento and Co hit heights of creative attacking genius that could be said to border on the Harlem Globetrotters at times, were it not for the fact that their party tricks are performed at high speed, and with a precision that adds a vital zip and incisiveness to the flow of Real's irresistible play. Every first touch is a telling one. Every piece of control is instant.
Puskas's fourth goal - Real's sixth in a 7-3 victory that earned their fifth successive European Cup - is a two-touch combination of the balletic and the ballistic. He kills the ball with his back to goal and swivels to smash it into the back of the net, all in one flash of inspirational genius.
"Puskas: still as great as ever," Kenneth Wolstenholme remarks. Puskas: sadly gone now, though his greatness can still be seen.
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