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Hungary soccer legend Puskas dies

November 17, 2006 14:51 IST

Hungarian football legend Ferenc Puskas died in hospital on Friday, following a long illness, his biographer Gyorgy Szollosi told Reuters. He was aged 79.

Puskas, dubbed "The Galloping Major", was one of football's all-time greats, winning league titles with Hungarian club Honved and with Spanish giants Real Madrid, with whom he also won three European Cups.

He was the inspiration behind the "Magical Magyars", the Hungarian national side that sensationally beat England 6-3 in 1953, the first foreign side to win at Wembley.

His international goal scoring record of 83 goals in 84 games for Hungary has been eclipsed recently, but remains among the most prolific in the world.

As the last millennium drew to a close, Puskas was voted the 20th century's fourth best player by the International Federation for Football History and Statistics.

Born in April 1927, Puskas began his career in the domestic league aged 15 and won his first international cap two years later, scoring on his debut against neighbours Austria.

He was a talismanic member of Hungary's "Golden Team" that lost just one match -- the 1954 World Cup final -- in six years during the 1950s.

That side was devastated by Hungary's anti-communism uprising in 1956, after which Puskas went into exile.

In 1958, he resurrected his career at Real Madrid where he formed a lethal strike partnership with Argentinian Alfredo Di Stefano, winning six domestic titles and conquering Europe.

Puskas scored four and Di Stefano three in Real's mesmerising 7-3 European Cup win over Eintracht Frankfurt in Glasgow in 1960 -- a match that passed into football folklore.

Puskas retired in 1967, going on to coach clubs in several countries, leading Greek side Panathanaikos to the European Cup final in 1971.

Puskas, who was admitted to hospital in late 2000 with arteriosclerosis and was later diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, leaves a wife Erzsebet.

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