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Postecoglou and Puskas: Celtic manager's debt to Real Madrid icon

Postecoglou acted as a translator as he soaked up football knowledge from the Hungarian legend.

Ange Postecoglou and Ferenc Puskas: How the Celtic manager owes a debt to the Real Madrid icon Twitter

When Ange Postecoglou arrives at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu for Celtic’s final Champions League match against Real Madrid, he may take time to remember a Madrid legend who helped shape his managerial career.

Ferenc Puskas’ achievements for Hungary and as one of the leading lights in the great Real Madrid team that won five consecutive European Cups in the early 60s are common knowledge – but his time in the dugout is less well known.

The Hungarian’s coaching career saw him work on six continents, including a three-year spell in Australia, where he took charge of a National Soccer League side and had a major impact on Postecoglou.

The pair’s strong connection was formed partly because the Celtic boss was born in Greece, where Puskas had enjoyed success, taking Panathinaikos to the European Cup final.

“I was captain of South Melbourne and he was one of the biggest legends of the game,” Postecoglou said last year. “If you are talking about the greatest ever, he makes that list of players.

“He was just a gentleman. From the moment he wandered through, he was just humble. We were constantly pestering him to tell us stories about Real Madrid, what he did at Hampden, what he did at Wembley.

“He was forever downplaying everything and it just showed you the greatness of the man was his humility in dealing 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 decent and I acted almost as an interpreter.

“I used to pick him up from his house and drive him to training in my crappy old car, which I was embarrassed about.”

The pair achieved success together, lifting the NSL Cup in 1990 and winning the league a year later. Postecoglou’s attacking approach may well have been shaped by his time under Puskas, who refused to ask his wingers to track back, much to his captain’s frustration, and demanded positive and entertaining football.

But the Celtic boss said it was Puskas’ personality and man-management that made an impression more than his tactics.

“It certainly highlighted how important it is as a leader that people believe in you,” Postecoglou said. “We certainly believed in him.

“I am totally different to him. He was the most humble man, where he would just talk with everyone and you could spend hours with him. I am not as social as he was in that respect.

“But he showed as a leader that you don’t have to rule by fear at all times. It was like playing for your grandfather, you just didn’t want to let him down. He was old when he got to us, but he just had that aura about him that we didn’t want to let him down.

“That was pretty strong in terms of showing me that, as a leader, people you are working with need to believe in you as much as your ideas. That was certainly really evident with the atmosphere he created at training and at the club.”