How Ferenc Puskas sculpted the philosophy and career of Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou


Real Madrid and Hungary legend Ferenc Puskas led Ange Postecoglou (right) in South Melbourne.

Postecoglou played under Puskas for South Melbourne from 1989 to 1992 and formed a close bond before embarking on his own managerial career at the same club.

The Greek-born Australian largely shares a footballing philosophy with Puskas, who has helped transform the game with Hungary and Real Madrid, and has learned a lot about leadership from his mentor.

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“I had the chance to spend a few years with the great Ferenc Puskas, an absolute gentleman, and someone who holds a very dear place in my heart,” Postecoglou said. “He took care of me for two or three years, we had a very close relationship.

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou with Celtic’s Kyogo Furuhashi during a UEFA Europa League second qualifying leg between Celtic and Jablonec at Celtic Park on August 12, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

“I was captain of South Melbourne and he was one of the greatest legends in the game. If you’re talking about the greatest of all time, he makes this list of players.

“He was just a gentleman. From the moment he wandered he was just humble. We constantly harassed him to tell us stories about Real Madrid, which he did in Hampden, which ‘he did at Wembley.

“He always minimized everything and it just showed you that the greatness of a man was just his humility in his dealings with people.

“I was lucky because when he came to Australia his English wasn’t great, but he had coached Panathinaikos to a European Cup final so his Greek was okay. So I almost acted as an interpreter.

Ferenc Puskas, dressed in an Honved Budapest dress, poses in the 1950s. A legend of Hungarian football and Real Madrid, the inspiration for the national team of the “Mighty Magyars” who dominated world football in the 1950s, (Photo credit – ZOLTAN THALY J. ARCHIVE/AFP via Getty Images)

“I used to pick him up from his house and drive him to practice in my old car, which I was embarrassed about. We exchanged stories and his football philosophy was basically going out, to s ‘have fun and score goals.

“We used to play with two wingers and he always told our wingers never to come back to defend. I was a full-back so that pissed me off, but we won a championship with him.

“I was really sad when he passed because when he left Australia I couldn’t reconnect with him when I grew up and became a manager myself. I would have loved to thank him personally for the influence that he has been, as a man as much as he was as a coach. “

Postecoglou brought those lessons to Glasgow as he prepares to instill his attacking style of play.

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

“It certainly highlighted how much as a leader people believe in you,” said the 56-year-old. “We certainly believed in him.

“I’m totally different from him. He was the most humble man, where he just talked to everyone and you could spend hours with him. I’m not as sociable as he was in that regard.

“But he showed as a leader that you don’t have to rule by fear all the time. It was like playing for your grandfather, you just didn’t want to let him down. He just had that aura. around him.

“It was strong enough to show me that as a leader, the people you work with have to believe in you as much as they believe in your ideas. It was certainly very evident with the atmosphere he created in there. ‘training and at the club. “

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