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16 years ago today: Real Madrid legend Ferenc Puskas passed away

Tempelhof Airport Arrival / departure of VIP’s Germany / Berlin / Tempelhof (Tempelhof-Schoeneberg): Ferenc Puskas *02.04.1927-17.11.2006+ Athlete, football player, Hungary Arrival of the Spanish football team Real Madrid at Tempelhof Airport| from l Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images

On Novermber 17th 2006, one of the greatest players in Real Madrid history, Ferenc Puskas, passed away.

Puskas was one of the most beloved players who put on a Real Madrid shirt. Not only was he highly successful on the field — winning three European Cups and scoring a ton of goals in the process — but he was also well loved off the field.

On November 7th 2016, our chief editor Kiyan Sobhani wrote a tribute to him (which you can read here). Here is an excerpt from that piece:

As his Hungarian teammate Jeno Buzansky put it, “If a good player has the ball, he should have the vision to spot three options... Puskas always saw at least five.”

Raymond Kopa once remarked that goalkeepers were terrified of Puskas, even if the Hungarian striker was 35 meters away from goal. His shot was stinging and precise.

So easily history could’ve swayed too, but it didn’t. Before Real Madrid snatched him up, Puskas served a two-year football ban from UEFA for refusing to return to Hungary whilst playing for Budapest Honved amid travelling for the European Cup. While Honved were in Spain to play the first leg of a first-round clash against Athletic Bilbao, the Hungarian Revolution broke out, and the team decided not to go back - arranging for the return leg to be played in Brussels instead.

As you can imagine, at the age of 31 - fresh off a two-year hiatus - it wasn’t easy for Puskas to find a home. He searched for a role in Serie A, but no Italian manager wanted to take a gamble on an ageing star who had shown up slightly overweight after a chasm in his career. Only Real Madrid had the vision to bring Puskas in.

Real Madrid’s gamble paid off. Not only did Puskas go on a lights-out six-year tear after signing with the club, but he also worked diligently to lose 18kg before the start of his first season in Madrid to round back into match form. Italian football wept.

Real Madrid released the following statement today:

On 17 November 2006, Ferenc Puskas passed away at the age of 79 and Real Madrid lost one of the best strikers in the club’s history. The Hungarian player became a legend in world football owing to his goalscoring prolificacy and at Real Madrid he was part of a dream front line alongside Di Stéfano, Kopa, Rial and Gento. Puskas was born in Budapest on 1 April 1927 and signed for our club at the age of 31. His outstanding performances were instrumental in one of Real Madrid’s most prosperous periods. As a madridista, the Hungarian lifted 3 European Cups, 1 Intercontinental Cup, 5 LaLiga titles and 1 Copa de España. In terms of his statistics, the striker netted 242 goals in 262 games to become one of the most prolific goal scorers in the club’s history.

A lasting memory in world footballOne of his most memorable moments as a Real Madrid player came in the final of the club’s fifth European Cup triumph, when he struck four goals against Eintracht Frankfurt in 1960. This is still the highest ever scoring record in a final of Europe’s premier competition. As a commemoration of his career, a bust of Puskas can be found at Real Madrid City. Additionally, FIFA named the award for the best goal of the year after him (Puskas Award).

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