By 90Min
July 16, 2019

Mario Zagallo is number 25 in 90min's Top 50 Great Managers of All Time series. Follow the rest of the series over the course of the next five weeks.


Oh yeah, here we go. This is where the 50 greatest managers list gets relatable, modern and sexy. Bela Guttmann

No? Alright, well that's a you problem rather than a Guttmann problem – the man was a rockstar, Mourinho (way) before Mourinho, a man who nailed dead rats to management's doors at the Olympics and escaped a German forced labour camp in the Second World War. 

The man was a biographer's nightmare. Never mind a single volume, you'd need a trilogy just to scratch the surface of the former centre-half's 82 years on this earth. And we've only got one little web page, so this is going to be the speed run version. Read David Bolchover's The Greatest Comeback later for the full breakdown. 

Born in Budapest in 1899 to a pair of Jewish dance instructors, a teenage Guttmann qualified to follow in their footsteps. However...this was Hungary in the early 1900s. Everyone played football. Guttmann played football. Guttmann was good at football. Guttmann didn't go into dance instructing. 

Career Honours
Hungarian League (1939, '47)
Mitropa Cup (1939)
Sao Paulo State Championship (1957)
Portuguese League (1959, '60, '61)
European Cup (1960, '61)
Portuguese Cup (1962)

He won the Hungarian league twice, moved to Austria to escape the rising tide of anti-semitism in his homeland, won the title there too, went to the 1924 Olympics and hung dead rats on the doors of team officials in protest at the hotel conditions the players were put in. He didn't play for the national team again after that tournament. Wonder why?

He finished his career with half a dozen years in the US, before coming back to coach in Vienna and then the Netherlands – kickstarting his managerial career with relegation-threatened Twente Enschede. He took them to the Northern Holland title and nearly bankrupt the club with the bonuses he'd insisted on having inserted into his contract; the kind that would never have been agreed if they'd looked even a little bit achievable. Oops. 


"The third season is fatal"

Bela Guttman (probably)


He went home after that, to Hungary and Újpest FC, and won the league in 1938/39. You'll have picked up from phrases like 'Second World War', 'Jewish parents' and 'German forced labour camp' that the early 1940s weren't a great time for Guttmann. 

Towards the end of 1944, Guttmann found himself in a slave labour camp near Budapest with another great coach, Egri Erbstein. They escaped, jumping out of a window, after discovering that their camp was to be taken to Auschwitz. Both he and Erbstein survived the war, the latter perishing five years later with Il Grande Torino in the Superga Air Disaster. 

After the war he returned to coaching, and to strong willed-ness. Furious at one player's performance, he told him to stay in the dressing room for the second half and leave the team with ten players. When the team's captain, a young Ferenc Puskas, convinced the player to return to the pitch, Guttmann quit on the spot. 

He went to Italy and took AC Milan to the top of Serie A before – again – conflicts within the club forced him out. "I have been sacked," he said, "even though I am neither a criminal nor a homosexual."

Make of that what you will. 

He pinged around Europe again before settling in Sao Paulo for all of a year or so; popularising the 4-2-4 formation with which Brazil won the World Cup the year after his Sao Paulo team triumphed in the State Championship. 

By this point in his career, Guttmann had managed 13 different clubs, some of them multiple times. He's sometimes called the proto-Mourinho for a reason; rarely making it into his third season at a club and certainly not beyond it. In a (possibly apocryphal) quote, he called the third season at any club 'fatal'. 

Teams Managed Years
SC Hakoah Wien 1933-35, 1937-38
Enschede 1935-37
Ujpest 1938-39, 1947
Vasas 1945
Ciocanul Bucuresti 1946
Budapest Honved 1947-48, 1956-57
Padova 1949-50
Triestina 1950-51
Quilmes 1953
APOEL 1953
AC Milan 1953-55
Vicenza 1955-56
Sao Paulo 1957-58
Porto 1958-59, 1973
Benfica 1959-62, 1965-66
Penarol 1962
Austria 1964
Servette 1966-67
Panathinaikos 1967
Austria Wien 1973

Then he went and changed Portuguese football, winning the league with Porto before immediately jumping to Benfica, winning two league titles, securing two European Cups and – most importantly – signing a 19-year-old Eusébio da Silva Ferreira. 

Eusebio ended up with 317 goals in 301 league games for the club, their greatest ever player and one of the best of all time for any side – national or domestic. Eusebio's presence and his unprecedented success with Benfica encouraged Guttmann to negotiate a contract which would take him into an unprecedented fourth season. 

He didn't get the pay-rise he wanted, and (again, possibly apocryphally, not that it matters) put a 'curse' on the club, saying 'Not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champions.'

FBL-POR-LIGA-BENFICA-SANTA CLARA

Not even a return to the club for Guttmann after defeats in the 1963 and 1965 finals could break the 'curse', a short spell ending trophyless. 1968 saw another European Cup final defeat, before a 20-year final drought – then defeats in 1988 and 1990. 

Guttmann's legacy is complicated; often seen more as a curiosity than a gamechanger, never staying in one place long enough to establish any kind of dynasty. But that's a legacy in itself, eh?


Number 50: Marcelo Bielsa - El Loco's Journey From Argentina to Footballing Immortality in Europe

Number 49: Vic Buckingham - How an Englishman Discovered Johan Cruyff & Pioneered Total Football

Number 48: Claudio Ranieri: A Ridiculed Tinkerman Who Masterminded One of Football's Greatest Ever Achievements

Number 47: Bill Nicholson: Mr Tottenham Hotspur, the First Double Winning Manager of the 20th Century

Number 46: Sven-Goran Eriksson: The Scudetto Winning Shagger Who Never Solved the Lampard-Gerrard Conundrum

Number 45: Sir Alf Ramsey: The Man Behind the 'Wingless Wonders' & England's Sole World Cup Triumph

Number 44: Antonio Conte: An Astute Tactician Whose Perfectionist Philosophy Reinvented the 3-5-2 Wheel

Number 43: Kenny Dalglish: The Beacon of Light in Liverpool's Darkest Hour

Number 42: Massimiliano Allegri: The Masterful Tactician Who Won Serie A Five Times in a Row

Number 41: Sir Bobby Robson: A Footballing Colossus Whose Fighting Spirit Ensured an Immortal Legacy

Number 40: Luis Aragones: Spain's Most Important Manager, the Atleti Rock and the Modern Father of Tiki-Taka

Number 39: Herbert Chapman: One of Football's Great Innovators & Mastermind Behind the 'W-M' Formation

Number 38: Carlos Alberto Parreira: The International Specialist Who Never Shied Away From a Challenge

Number 37: Franz Beckenbauer: The German Giant Whose Playing Career Overshadowed His Managerial Genius

Number 36: Viktor Maslov: Soviet Pioneer of the 4-4-2 & the Innovator of Pressing

Number 35: Rafa Benitez: The Conquerer of La Liga Who Masterminded That Comeback in Istanbul

Number 34: Zinedine Zidane: Cataloguing the Frenchman's Transition From Midfield Magician to Managerial Maestro

Number 33: Luiz Felipe Scolari: How the Enigmatic 'Big Phil' Succeeded as Much as He Failed on the Big Stage

Number 32: Jupp Heynckes: The Legendary Manager Who Masterminded 'the Greatest Bayern Side Ever'

Number 31: Vicente del Bosque: The Unluckiest Manager in the World Who Led Spain to Immortality

Number 30: Arsene Wenger: A Pioneering Who Became Invincible at Arsenal

Number 29: Udo Lattek: The Bundesliga Icon Who Shattered European Records

Number 28: Jock Stein: The Man Who Guided Celtic to Historic Heights & Mentored Sir Alex Ferguson

Number 27: Vittorio Pozzo: Metodo, Mussolini, Meazza & the Difficult Memory of a Two-Time World Cup Winner

Number 26: Jurgen Klopp: The Early Years at Mainz 05 Where He Sealed His 'Greatest Achievement'

Number 25: Mario Zagallo: Habitual World Cup Winner & Sculptor of Brazil's Joga Bonito Era


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