Béla Guttmann

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Béla Guttmann
Guttmann 1953.JPG
Guttmann in 1953
Personal information
Full name Béla Guttmann
Date of birth (1899-01-27)27 January 1899[1]
Place of birth Budapest,[1] Austria-Hungary
Date of death 28 August 1981(1981-08-28) (aged 82)[1]
Place of death Vienna,[1] Austria
Playing position Centre-half[2]
Youth career
1917–1919 Törekvés SE
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1919–1920 Törekvés SE 17 (0)
1921–1922 MTK Hungária 16 (1)
1922–1926 Hakoah Wien 96 (8)
1926 Brooklyn Wanderers
1926–1929 New York Giants 83 (2)
1929–1930 New York Hakoah 21 (0)
1930 New York Soccer Club 22 (0)
1931–1932 Hakoah All-Stars 50 (0)
1932–1933 Hakoah Wien 4 (0)
National team
1921–1924 Hungary[1] 4 (1)
Teams managed
1933–1935 SC Hakoah Wien
1935–1937 Enschede
1937–1938 Hakoah Wien
1938–1939 Újpest
1945 Vasas
1946 Ciocanul Bucureşti
1947 Újpest
1947–1948 Kispest
1949–1950 Padova
1950–1951 Triestina
1953 Quilmes
1953 APOEL
1953–1955 Milan
1955–1956 Vicenza
1956–1957 Honvéd
1957–1958 São Paulo
1958–1959 Porto
1959–1962 Benfica
1962 Peñarol
1964 Austria
1965–1966 Benfica
1966–1967 Servette
1967 Panathinaikos
1973 Austria Wien
1973 Porto
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Béla Guttmann (Hungarian: [ˈbeːlɒ ˈɡutmɒnn]; 27 January 1899[3] – 28 August 1981) was a Hungarian footballer and coach. He was born in Budapest, Austria-Hungary, and was Jewish.[4] Because he was a Jew, he was deported by the Nazis to a Nazi slave labor camp; he survived the Holocaust. Before the war, he played as a midfielder for MTK Hungária FC, SC Hakoah Wien, Hungary and several clubs in the United States. However, he is perhaps best remembered as a coach and manager after the war of A.C. Milan, São Paulo FC, FC Porto, Benfica and C.A. Peñarol. His greatest success came with 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 Milan while they were top of Serie A and he walked out on Benfica after they refused a request for a pay rise, reportedly leaving the club with a curse.

Playing career[edit]

Club career[edit]

Guttmann was a prominent member of the MTK Hungária FC team of the early 1920s.[5] Playing alongside Gyula Mándi, he helped MTK win Hungarian League titles in 1920 and 1921. In 1922 he moved to Vienna 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 York to begin a ten-match tour of the United States and on 1 May a crowd of 46,000 watched them play an American Soccer League XI at the Polo Grounds. The ASL team won 3–0.

Béla Guttmann during his Hakoah Wien period (1925)

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 two 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 (then known as National Challenge 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.[6] 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.[7]

Hungarian International[edit]

Between 1921 and 1924, Guttman also played six times for Hungary, scoring on his debut on 5 June 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 Paris. 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.[8]

Coaching career[edit]

Return to Europe[edit]

Guttmann returned to Europe in 1932 and in the years before the outbreak of the Second World War he coached teams in Austria, The Netherlands and Hungary. 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.[9]

During the destruction of Hungarian Jewry in 1944, Guttman initially hid in an attic in Újpest, aided by his non-Jewish brother-in-law. He was then sent to a forced labor camp. He escaped in December 1944, just before he was about to be sent to Auschwitz together with Ernest Erbstein, another famous Jewish-Hungarian coach. Both his father and sister were murdered in Auschwitz. For many years the story of what happened to him during the Holocaust was unclear, until David Bolchover wrote about it in his biography of Guttman, titled The Greatest Comeback.[10]

After the war Guttmann briefly took charge at Vasas SC, before joining Ciocanul in Romania. 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. In November of 1948, Guttmann attempted take off fullback Mihály Patyi, leaving the team with 10 players. Encouraged by his team captain, Ferenc Puskás Jr, Patyi remained on the pitch and Guttman retired to the stands, refusing to coach the team. This was his final game in charge of the team and he departed soon after the falling out.[11]


Like many other Hungarian footballers and coaches, Guttmann spent time in Italy. After spells with Calcio Padova and U.S. Triestina Calcio, he was appointed manager of A.C. Milan in 1953. With a team that included 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."[12] 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[edit]

Guttmann first went to South America on tour with the Hakoah All-Stars in the summer of 1930.[13] In 1957, he returned as a coach with the Honvéd team which included Ferenc Puskás, Zoltán Czibor, Sándor Kocsis, József Bozsik, László Budai, Gyula Lóránt and Gyula Grosics. During a tour of Brazil, 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, in 1962 Guttmann would return to South America to manage C.A. Peñarol, but was replaced in October by Peregrino Anselmo, who guided the side to the Uruguayan League title that very year.


A statue of Béla Guttman holding a replica of the European Cup in each arm

In 1958, Guttmann arrived in Portugal 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 Benfica to win his first of three Portuguese League titles in 1959. The following season, he jumped ship and joined Benfica.[14] There he promptly sacked 20 senior players, promoted a host of youth players and won the league again in 1960 and 1961. Under Guttmann, 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 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.[15]

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. The Brazilian team were on tour in Portugal and the coach mentioned an outstanding player he had seen while they toured Mozambique. Eusébio had also attracted the interest of Sporting CP. Guttman moved quickly and signed the then 19-year-old for Benfica.[16]

To celebrate Benfica's 110th birthday, a statue of Guttman holding his two European Cups was unveiled. The statue made by Hungarian sculptor László Szatmári Juhos was placed at door 18 of the Estádio da Luz.[17]

The "curse" of Béla Guttmann[edit]

After the 1962 European Cup Final, Guttmann reportedly approached the Benfica board of directors and asked for a pay rise.[18] However, despite the success he had brought the club, he was turned down.[19] On leaving Benfica, he allegedly cursed the club declaring, "Not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champions". Later, on 6 April 1963, in an interview to A Bola, he stated, "Benfica, at this moment, are well served and do not need me. They will win the Campeonato Nacional and will be champions of Europe again."[20] Benfica have gone on to lose five European Cup finals (1963, 1965, 1968, 1988 and 1990).[21][22] Before the 1990 final, played in Vienna (city where Guttmann was buried), Eusébio prayed at his grave and asked for the curse to be broken.[23]



MTK Hungária FC

SC Hakoah Wien

New York Hakoah


Újpest FC/Újpesti TE

São Paulo



See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Rota, Davide (9 January 2001). "Hungarian Players and Coaches in Italy". Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation. Retrieved 12 March 2009.
  2. ^ "Chelsea be warned: a Guttman is hard to find". guardian.co.uk. 17 January 2007.
  3. ^ See Gutmann's birth certificate.
  4. ^ The International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame - Joseph M. Siegman
  5. ^ Béla Guttmann at nela.hu
  6. ^ Jose, Colin (1998). American Soccer League, 1921–1931 (Hardback). The Scarecrow Press. (ISBN 0-8108-3429-4).
  7. ^ The Greatest Comeback: From Genocide To Football Glory: The Story of Béla ... - David Bolchover
  8. ^ The Greatest Comeback: From Genocide To Football Glory: The Story of Béla ... - David Bolchover
  9. ^ Futebol, linguagem, artes, cultura e lazer - Elcio Loureiro Cornelsen, Günther Herwig Augustin, Silvio Ricardo da Silva
  10. ^ The Greatest Comeback: From genocide to football glory by David Bolchover
  11. ^ Wilson, Jonathan (2019). The Names Heard Long Ago: How the Golden Age of Hungarian Soccer Shaped the Modern Gam. Bold Type Books. ISBN 1568587848.
  12. ^ The Football Ramble - Marcus Speller, Luke Moore, Pete Donaldson, Jim Campbell, The Football Ramble Limited
  13. ^ Jose, Colin. "From Hakoah to Benfica" Archived 6 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine. National Soccer Hall of Fame.
  14. ^ All in a told, Guttmann sat on the bench of Benfica 162 times (113 W, 27 D, 22 L), making his debut with the lisbonian side on 20 September 1959 at Estádio da Luz (Benfica 4 – 1 Setúbal); his last match in charge took place on 1 May 1966 at Estádio do Restelo (Setúbal 1 – 4 Benfica). In the European Cups, Guttmann amassed 22 matches (14 W, 3 D, 5 L); his first game was Hearts 1 – 2 Benfica, played on 29 September 1960 in Edinburgh, while he had his last appearance on 9 March 1966 (Benfica 1 – 5 Manchester United, played at Estádio da Luz). Source: Almanaque do Benfica : Edição Centenário 1904–2004, Almanaxi Editora, 2003, p. 535. ISBN 972-99074-0-4
  15. ^ A View From The Terraces - Part 2 - Steve Wilson
  16. ^ "h2g2 – Eusebio – A Footballing Legend". BBC. 25 January 1942. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  17. ^ "Rui Gomes da Silva: "A nossa ideia foi trazer Béla Guttmann para o estádio"" (in Portuguese). Record. 28 February 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  18. ^ Benfica and "the curse of Bela Guttmann"
  19. ^ Béla Guttmann and the curse of Benfica
  20. ^ Santos, Cruz dos (6 April 1963). "De Guttman" [From Guttman]. A Bola (in Portuguese). p. 5. O Benfica, nesta altura, está bem servido e não precisa de mim. Vai ganhar o Campeonato Nacional e voltará a ser campeão da Europa.
  21. ^ "The 52-year curse of Bela Guttman continues for Benfica as Portuguese club fall short in eighth European final with Europa League defeat against Sevilla". Daily Mail. 14 May 2014. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
  22. ^ Gardner, Paul (15 May 2014). "Brazen goalkeeper cheating helps Sevilla win Europa League". SoccerAmerica. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  23. ^ Top 10 footballing hoodoos - Bela Guttmann curses Benfica - Goal.com


  • Wilson, Jonathan (2006). Behind The Curtain – Travels in Eastern European Football. Orion Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-7528-6907-0.
  • Radnedge, Keir (2005). 50 Years of the European Cup and Champions League. Carlton Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-84442-529-7.
  • Castro, Ruy (2005). Garrincha: The Triumph and Tragedy of Brazil's Forgotten Footballing Hero. Yellow Jersey Press. ISBN 978-0-224-06433-0.
  • Clausson, Detlev (2006). Béla Guttmann, uma história mundial do futebol [Béla Guttmann, a history of world football]. Paquiderme. ISBN 978-989-99403-0-7.
  • Csaknady, Jeno (1964). A história de Béla Guttmann [The history of Béla Guttmann]. Bertrand.

External links[edit]