Real Madrid is one of the most decorated clubs in the world with the most no. of European Cups and La Liga titles to their name. The team has frequently had some of the best players in the world. It was no exception in the 1950’s when the world truly took notice of Real Madrid when they ushered in an era of dominance thanks to players like Di Stefano, Gento and Ferenc Puskas. The latter got so big and prolific as a goal scorer that now we even have an award named after him that goes to the best goal of the season. But aside from all the rampant goal scoring and myriad of trophies in the chest, one of the reasons why Puskas is such an important player is his age when he joined Real Madrid.
Before joining Madrid, Puskas’ time at Hungary was nothing short of legendary as well. He won 5 Hungarian Championships and scored 380 goals prior to his foray into Spain. But he moved to Spain 2 years after the Hungarian Revolution where he played for Real Madrid. He was 31 at the time of joining. Right then and there, if it were now, he would’ve been seen as a liability rather than a potentially great signing. When a footballer reaches 30, it’s usually looked at with stress by the fans. Most players retire in their 30’s and a lot of times, in their early 30’s. In recent times, this problem of age is slowly being curbed by players like Messi, Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic, Ribery, etc. But the fact is that people usually assume that once a player reaches 30’s, the best years are gone. Enter Ferenc Puskas, the man who joined Real Madrid at 31 and achieved legendary status way back in the 50’s-60’s.
Talent, Numbers and Achievements:
Ferenc Puskas isn’t considered one of the all-time greats for no reason. He was an incredibly powerful player and his finishing skills were off the charts. Puskas had ferocious shooting power and accuracy, which is why the goals kept coming. That’s not to say he wasn’t composed. Many of his best goals have come from him finding gaps when there were hordes of opposition players in front of him. Even his dribbling was cheeky and clever enough to fool many a defender. Puskas’ positional play was extremely sharp knowing how to play aggressive attacking football like he was born with that level of natural instinct. Even his reactions and reflexes as a center forward were sharp. All of this was both at Real Madrid and Budapest. Even though he was in his 30’s at Real, you didn’t feel a dip in talent or intensity. It was not like you were short-changed because he reached what is traditionally a less active age.
Ferenc Puskas naturally had the numbers and trophies at Real Madrid to confirm just why he’s considered to be one of the greatest players of all time. He scored 156 goals in 180 matches in the League for Real Madrid. Considering both in and out of the league, he racked up 242 goals in 262 matches. He scored 40 goals in a season(all comps) even when he was 34 years old (1961-62). While we have the luxury of having the likes of Ronaldo and Messi to witness, those types of numbers have mostly been unheard of in the history of football.
The Real Madrid trophy cabinet was lined with silver thanks to him. He won 10 trophies in his years at Real Madrid. They include 5 back-to-back Spanish League Titles, 1 Spanish Cup and 3 European Cup Titles. Very few players can claim to have those kinds of trophies, even fewer when you consider the amount of trophies. It’s even more impressive once you realize that all those trophies and achievements came after he reached his 30’s.
In the end, Ferenc Puskas is one of the most important players, not just because he was an amazing goal scorer and won a huge number of trophies. It’s because he achieved all those heights of greatness after crossing the age of 30. In a sport where it’s seen as done for once you reach 30 (but thankfully, slowly changing), his level of success at that is very hopeful. He’s a beacon of optimism in that way, especially considering how kept up the scoring down to the very end of his football career.