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Béla Guttmann (born Budapestmarker, Hungarymarker, March 13 1900; died Viennamarker, Austriamarker, August 28 1981), also referred to as Guttmann Béla, was a Jewish-Hungarian footballer and coach. He played as a midfielder for MTK Hungária FC, SC Hakoah Wien, Hungary and several clubs in the United Statesmarker. However he is perhaps best remembered as a coach and manager of some the world’s leading football teams, including AC Milan, São Paulo FC, FC Porto, SL Benfica and C.A. Peñarol. His greatest success came with SL Benfica when he guided them to two successive European Cup wins in 1961 and in 1962.

Together with Márton Bukovi and Gusztáv Sebes, Guttmann formed a triumvirate of radical Hungarian coaches who pioneered the 4-2-4 formation and he is also credited with mentoring Eusébio. However throughout his career he was never far from controversy. Widely travelled, as both a player and coach, he rarely stayed at a club longer than two seasons, and was quoted as saying the third season is fatal. He was sacked at AC Milan while they were top of Serie A and he walked out on SL Benfica after they refused to pay him more money, leaving the club with a curse as he left. He also earned a reputation for his self confidence and his brash style, leading to comparisons with Jose Mourinho [386766].

Playing career

Club career

Guttmann was a prominent member of the MTK Hungária FC team of the early 1920s. Playing alongside Gyula Mándi, he helped MTK win Hungarian League titles in 1920 and 1921. In 1922 he moved to Viennamarker to escape the anti-semitism of the Admiral Horthy regime and joined the all-Jewish club SC Hakoah Wien. In 1925 he won another league title when Hakoah won the Austrian League. In April 1926 the SC Hakoah Wien squad sailed to New Yorkmarker to begin a ten-match tour of the United Statesmarker and on May 1 a crowd of 46,000 watched them play an American Soccer League XI at the Polo Groundsmarker. The ASL team won 3-0.

Following the tour Guttmann and several of his teammates decided to stay on in the US. After initially playing for Brooklyn Wanderers, he signed for the New York Giants of the American Soccer League, playing 83 games and scoring 2 goals over two seasons. In 1928, the Giants were suspended from the ASL as part of the "Soccer War", a dispute pitting the ASL and United States Soccer Federation. Guttman and the Giants joined the Eastern Soccer League, but he soon moved to New York Hakoah, a team made-up of former SC Hakoah Wien players, including Rudolph Nickolsburger. In 1929 he helped them win the U.S. Open Cup. After a merger with Brooklyn Hakoah, they became the Hakoah All-Stars in 1930. In the fall of 1930 Guttman rejoined the Giants, now known as the New York Soccer Club, but was back at the All-Stars in the spring of 1931 where he finished his career as a player. As well as playing football, while in New York, Guttmann also bought into a speakeasy and almost lost everything after the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

Hungarian International

Between 1921 and 1924 Guttman also played six times for Hungary, scoring on his debut on June 5 1921 in a 3-0 win against Germany. Later in the same month he also played against a Southern Germany XI. His remaining four appearances all came in May 1924 in games against Switzerland, Saarland, Poland and Egypt. The latter two were at the Olympic Games in Parismarker. During the preparations for the competition Guttmann objected to the fact that there were more officials than players in the Hungary squad. He also complained that the hotel was more suitable for socialising than match preparation and to demonstrate his disapproval he hung dead rats on the doors of the travelling officials.

Coaching career

A Return to Europe

Guttmann returned to Europe in 1932 and in the years before the outbreak of the Second World War he coached teams in Austriamarker, The Netherlandsmarker and Hungarymarker . After spells with his former club SC Hakoah Wien and then SC Enschede, he had his first serious success with Újpest FC in the 1938-39 season, winning the Hungarian League and the Mitropa Cup. How Guttman spent the war years in unclear. Although his elder brother died in a concentration camp, Guttmann himself is said to have escaped to Switzerlandmarker where he was interned.

After the war Guttmann briefly took charge at Vasas SC, before joining CS Chinezul in Romaniamarker. Due to food shortages, Guttman insisted his salary be paid in vegetables. He subsequently walked out on the Romanian club after a director attempted to intervene in team selection. He then rejoined Újpest FC then known as Újpesti TE, and won another Hungarian League title before succeeding Ferenc Puskás Sr. as coach at Kispest AC. However he fell out with Ferenc Puskás Jr., again over team selection, and once again Guttmann walked.


Like many other Hungarian footballers and coaches, Guttmann spent time in Italymarker. After spells with Calcio Padova and U.S. Triestina Calcio, he was appointed manager of AC Milan in 1953. With a team that included Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordahl, Nils Liedholm and Juan Alberto Schiaffino, Guttmann had them top of Serie A nineteen games into his second season in charge when a string of disputes with the board led to his dismissal. He later told a stunned press conference I have been sacked even though I am neither a criminal nor a homosexual. Goodbye. From then on he insisted on a clause in his contract that he could not be sacked if his team were top of the table. He subsequently managed a fourth Italian club Vicenza Calcio.

South America

Guttmann first went to South America on tour with the Hakoah All-Stars in the summer of 1930. [386767]. In 1957 he returned as a coach with the legendary Honvéd team that included Ferenc Puskás, Zoltán Czibor, Sándor Kocsis, József Bozsik, László Budai, Gyula Lóránt and Gyula Grosics. During a tour of Brazilmarker, Honvéd played a series of five games against CR Flamengo, Botafogo and a Flamengo / Botafogo XI.

Guttmann then stayed on in Brazil and took charge of São Paulo FC and with a team that included Dino Sani, Mauro and Zizinho, won the São Paulo State Championship in 1957. It was while in Brazil that he helped popularise the 4-2-4 formation, which had been pioneered by fellow countrymen Márton Bukovi and Gusztáv Sebes, and was subsequently used by Brazil as they won the 1958 FIFA World Cup. Before finally retiring as coach, Guttmann would return to South America to manage C.A. Peñarol, guiding them to the Uruguayan League title in 1962.


In 1958 Guttmann arrived in Portugalmarker and embarked on the most successful spell of his career. He took charge of FC Porto and helped them overhaul a five point lead enjoyed by SL Benfica to win his first of three Portuguese League titles in 1959. The following season he jumped ship and joined SL Benfica. There he promptly sacked twenty senior players, promoted a host of youth players and won the league again in 1960 and 1961. Under Guttmann, SL Benfica, with a team that included Eusébio, José Águas, José Augusto, Costa Pereira, António Simões, Germano and Mário Coluna, also won the European Cup twice in a row. In 1961 they beat FC Barcelona 3-2 in the final and in 1962 they retained the title, coming from 2-0 and 3-2 down to beat Real Madrid 5-3.

Legend has it that Guttmann signed Eusébio after a chance meeting in a barber shop. Seated next to Guttman was José Carlos Bauer, one of his successors at São Paulo FC. The Brazilian team were on tour in Portugal and the coach mentioned an outstanding player he had seen while they toured Mozambiquemarker. Eusébio had also attracted the interest of Sporting Lisbon. Guttman moved quickly and signed the then nineteen year old player for SL Benfica.

After the 1962 final Guttmann approached the SL Benfica board of directors and asked for more money but, despite the success he had bought the club, he was turned down. On leaving SL Benfica he allegedly cursed the club, declaring Not in a hundred years from now will a Portuguese team become European Champion and Benfica without me will never win a European Cup . Despite being finalists on five occasions - 1963, 1965, 1968, 1988 and 1990 - SL Benfica have never won any European Championship again. Before the 1990 final, which was played in Viennamarker, where Guttmann was buried, Eusébio allegedly prayed unsuccessfully at his grave to ask for the curse to be broken.



MTK Hungária FC

SC Hakoah Wien

New York Hakoah


Újpest FC/Újpesti TE

São Paulo





  1. BBC - h2g2 - Eusebio - A Footballing Legend

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