Barcelona: Before Holland, Hungary

Before the arrival of the Dutch school, personified in the figures of the coach Rinus Michels (1971) and the star of the time Johan Cruyff (1973), Barcelona was impacted by other influences. It was to be expected that in a football created by the English they were the ones who set the tone with the famous WM system invented by Herbert Chapman and with his direct, hard and rigid game. But another look at the game was brewing in central Europe, first with the hits from the famous Austrian ‘Wunderteam’ and later with the Hungarian school. Those molecules also arrived at Barça.

Since the 1920s there has been an interest in this football that came from the Danube basin. In 1923 Joan Gamper invited the famous MTK Budapest to play two games and was predating Franz Platko, a blond and agile giant under sticks. That campaign Ricardo Zamora had returned to Espanyol, so Platko would be a good substitute to fill his void. He played from 1923 to 1930 and even Rafael Alberti dedicated a poem to him for his impossible saves. The figure of Platko is the first that unites Barcelona with Hungary and with Jimmy Hogan, the rebel British coach who sowed the seed of that other football.

“Jimmy Hogan taught us everything we know”, synthesized Sandor Barcs, president of the Hungarian Federation after 3-6 to England at Wembley on November 25, 1953. This globetrotting Englishman distanced himself from the ideas of the time and created a methodology in which football was based on the association of players through short passes (keep into the carpet). “The history of Magical Magyars begins in the early 1950s but the foundations are laid much earlier. Hogan was the driving force behind working with MTK Budapest during the period of seclusion that he lived through in the Great War.“explains Álex Couto in his book Total soccer.

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Platko, former Barça goalkeeper.

Szeder, culé in the 30s and then a victim of Nazism

Hogan and Platko did not coincide, but MTK had assimilated that revolutionary football that began to achieve success in Austria. “The continent’s players, unlike the English, were always careful with the handling of the ball and insistently solicitous to improve their technique”explains Couto. In the 1930s, the Hungarians Ernst Löwinger, György Szeder y Elemér Berkessy they played for Barça. Löwinger trained for a year (1933-34) but could not get a place on the team. György Szeder (1934-35), his birth name was Györg Silberstein, he was a leftist only 19 years old when he joined Barcelona, ​​he only played five games when his country claimed him. He returned to Hungary, where he died in a concentration camp in 1945, the day after Adolf Hitler committed suicide. Berkessy (1934-36) arrived in Barcelona from Paris under the direction of Platko. The excellent player became the first Hungarian goalscorer in La Liga history.

But those little seeds multiplied in the 1950s. First with the arrival of Ladislao Kubala after fleeing his country risking his life, passing through Italy and marveling at Samitier when he saw him touch a ball. With the Hungarian came several advances. “Kubala was the first to take fouls over the wall, who was protecting the ball in the last minutes and who made the paradinha on penalties“said former player and Ballon d’Or Luis Suárez at the time.

Kubala and Samitier.

Although Kubala revolutionized Barcelona, ​​the arrival of Czibor y Kocsis in 1958 it was an event in the city. That magical coincidence further marked the personality of a style of play that had led the Magyar team to excellence. Kocsis and Czibor, unlike Kubala, had belonged to the Aranycsapat (gold team) that won the 1952 Games and was runner-up in the 1954 world. His football innovations have another father, Gustav Sebes, a former player and also influenced by Jimmy Hogan.

Sebes and the creation of phase nine with Hidegkuti

With a socialist belief, Sebes distributed the internationals for two clubs in the city of Budapest (MTK and Honved) to be able to train regularly with all of them. His ideas, as Couto collects in his book, are clear advances in the game, germ of the later Dutch school and Barça DNA. Sebes transmitted “attack and defend together“, “the game is part of the group and not of the individual“, “turn the center forward into a more dynamic and less positional player“(Hidegkuti or Palótas developed that false nine function),”play from the stand and not play from the stand” O “Grosics, the goalkeeper, left the area“.

All this was exhibited in the best showcase: the “match of the century” against England, with Hogan in the Wembley stands watching his country’s team lose to a team that had believed in his ideas. In fact, from that period from 1951 to 1954 Hungary only fell once, the famous World Cup final against West Germany (3-2). The Hungarian school, even if it was disorderly and with players and not coaches, had also left its mark on Barcelona, ​​those first molecules of its later style of play that the Dutch school developed.

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