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When Di Stefano and Puskas made Real Madrid the greatest side in Europe
- Updated: 29 July, 2012
The introduction of the European Cup in 1955 revolutionised football and the competition, in it’s current guise as the UEFA Champions League, is now arguably the most important event in the world game.
The famous trophy has been won by many great sides; the majestic Ajax of the early 1970‘s dominated before passing the mantle to Bayern Munich, who equalled the Dutch club’s three consecutive triumphs. Liverpool and Nottingham Forest then shared six trophies between them in the space of seven glorious years for English football.
There is one club however, who surpass all these magnificent sides in the history of European club football. Real Madrid have won an incredible nine European Cups since the tournaments inception, rightly taking their place at the pinnacle of the Continent’s premier club competition.
It is the legendary Madrid side of Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas however, who are considered by most observers to be the greatest side to have played the game. Their five consecutive triumphs, beginning in the inaugural season of 1955 and ending in 1960, is unlikely to be equalled and the team has gone down in footballing folklore.
In 1955, the fledging competition was announced by UEFA with the intention of pitching the continents national champions together in a knock-out tournament that would be finally decided by a one-game showpiece. The following five years saw complete domination by the Spanish side – something that no club has since been close to emulating.
The 1955-56 final saw Real Madrid come from behind to beat French side Stade Reims 4-3 in the Parc de Prince, Paris – thus beginning the amazing run. A year later Madrid found themselves in familiar territory as the final was played at the Bernabeu against Fiorentina, a 2-0 victory was enough to claim back-to-back titles.
In the 1957-58 season, Real Madrid went toe-to-toe with Italian giants AC Milan who failed to capitalise on their lead twice. Madrid took the game to extra time where they scored the winning goal in an enthralling 3-2 victory. That was European Cup number three.
The following season was a mere repeat of the first cup final against Stade Reims, the game ended in a comfortable 2-0 victory for Madrid. The final European Cup triumph of that star-studded side came in 1960, when Real Madrid destroyed the German champions, Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 in Glasgow.
The game is seen by many as the greatest football match in the tournament’s history. Another record in itself for the most amount of goals in a European Cup final. Madrid had to overcome fierce rivals FC Barcelona in order to reach the Hampden Park final, beating the Catalans by a scoreline of 6-2 over two legs.
Frankfurt, fresh from firing 12 goals past Rangers on the way to the final, were mere bystanders in an epic match that saw Di Stefano and Puskas share seven goals between them, mesmerizing more than 120,000 spectators in the process. This feat is even more noticeable now due to the fact that they are two of only three players to ever score a hat trick in a European cup final.
Alfredo Di Stefano’s treble capped an amazing reign of dominance for the club which had also seen the Argentinian voted European Player of the year in 1957 and 1959. Although Di Stefano and Puskas shared the goals and were obviously key influences in the clubs success, other players such as Francisco Gento and Jose Maria Zarraga, both regulars in Madrid’s European title winning teams, were instrumental throughout.
Miguel Munoz became one of a select few to win the European Cup as both player and manger following the 1959-60 cup win. He also became the most successful coach in the club’s coveted history, leading them to another European cup win in 1966 when they defeated FK Partizan 2-1 in the final, along with nine Spanish league titles, five of which were consecutive from 1960-1965. All in all, Real Madrid won 22 trophies in 19 years.
From the start of the 1953 season, Madrid did not fail to acquire silverware, whether it was the European cup, the Spanish League title, the Copa del Rey or the Intercontinental Cup. In recognition of these achievements, Real Madrid C.F were presented The FIFA Club of the Century award in December 2000.
Alfredo Di Stefano was made Honorary life President of Real Madrid in 2001 and the Castilla team’s home ground was named The Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium.
The Real Madrid team of that glorious period took football to a new level and paved the way for the great sides that followed. They have left a legacy for all those who now where the famous white shirts of the club and, in truth, their achievement is unlikely to be matched.Follow @icentrocampista