Clinical striker who spent his career with a top Hungarian side
Published 06/11/2011 | 05:00
Florian Albert, who died on Monday aged 70, was elected European Footballer of the Year in 1967 and was the last of the great players to emerge from Hungary during its golden era.
Both midfield general and prolific striker, Albert was viewed as the linchpin of his national side as it began to rebuild after the uprising of 1956. Until then, the "Magical Magyars" had lost only one match in 51 -- and that was the World Cup Final of 1954. The year before, they had shattered England's assumptions about its footballing superiority by winning 6-3 at Wembley.
Yet following the Soviet invasion, many of the country's top stars -- notably Ferenc Puskas and Sandor Kocsis -- had gone into exile. Not until 1960 did Hungary suggest that they might have found a replacement, when Albert's exceptional close control and range of passing steered the side to a bronze medal at the Rome Olympics.
Two years later, aged just 21, he shared the Golden Boot as joint top scorer with four goals at the World Cup. In 1964 he helped the team to third place in the European Championships.
Perhaps Albert's finest performance came at the World Cup played in England in 1966. Having lost their opening match in the group stage to Portugal, Hungary came up against the defending champions, Brazil, and Albert inspired his team-mates to a memorable 3-1 victory. He had a hand in all three goals, and though the side then went out to the USSR, the triumph over Brazil is still thought of by Hungarians as the equal of their famous defeat of England 13 years earlier.
Albert's role in it was recognised by the award of the Ballon d'Or for 1967; he succeeded Bobby Charlton and preceded George Best as its recipient. He remains the only Hungarian to have held the title.
Florian Albert was born on September 15, 1941, at Hercegszanto, near Hungary's frontier with Yugoslavia. His mother, who was ethnically Croat, died when he was two, and his father, a blacksmith, later moved the family to Budapest. There Florian quickly attracted the attention of one of the capital's two leading clubs, Ferencvaros.
He made his debut at 16 and spent his entire career with the club. In 1959 he won his first cap for the national side, and from 1962 began to forge a formidable striking partnership at international level with Ferenc Bene.
Albert steered Ferencvaros to the league title in 1963, the first of four championships that the team would claim in the next six years. Rangy and yet graceful, he was deceptively quick and a clinical finisher. He was top scorer in Hungary on several occasions, notably in 1965, when he bagged 27 goals in 24 appearances. That year, Ferencvaros -- having beaten Manchester United in the semi-final -- defeated Juventus to win the Fairs Cup, the forerunner of the Uefa Cup. In 1968 they lost a two-legged Fairs Cup final to Leeds United by a single (and disputed) goal.
Albert won his final trophy, the Hungarian Cup, in 1972. He had suffered a broken leg when playing against Denmark in 1969, and thereafter never quite regained his form. He retired in 1974, having netted 32 goals in 75 games for the national team, and scored 258 times in 350 league matches for his club.
For a short while he then coached in Libya, with Al-Ahly Benghazi, but afterwards he returned to Hungary and worked for Ferencvaros for the rest of his career. In 2007 the club named its stadium after him. Latterly he had been suffering from heart trouble, and he died following surgery.
He married, in 1963, Iren Barsony, an actress. They had a son, who also became a professional footballer, and a daughter.