Gusztáv Sebes took full advantage of the few perks communism had to offer, and built one of the most legendary teams to ever play the game.
Sebes, one of the games greatest intellectuals, used to sit before the Second World War in many of Budapest’s coffee houses and talk about soccer with his friends, Bela Guttman, Dori Kurschner and others.
These conversations made Sebes realize that the great national teams of Europe, Austria’s Wunderteam and Italy, the winner of two World Cups in the 30′s, drew their strength by assembling squads consisting of players who played for the same club.
This method, Sebes understood, helped these national teams to be more synchronized than their rivals, helping them to overcome teams with better individual talent.
In 1949, after the communist nationalization of all soccer clubs in Hungary, Sebes was named as the national coach. Sebes capitalized on the centralized power of the national soccer federation, and started to copy the models he saw in Austria and Italy.
Sebes didn’t go after Budapest big clubs. Ferencváros , Hungary’s most popular team before the war, was associated with the right wing and the fascist party, and Hungary’s other great club, MTK, was “adopted” by the country’s secret police, AVH.
Instead, Sebes had decided to turn Kispest AC into his laboratory. The club was taken over by the Hungarian Ministry of Defence and became the Hungarian Army team. It was subsequently renamed Budapest Honved.
The Kispest team already included Ferenc Puskás and József Bozsik, but army conscription enabled Honved to recruit many other international players.
Sebes was effectively using Honved as a training camp for the national team, later known as the “Mighty Magyars” in the 1950′s, one of the most amazing soccer teams ever.
Obviously, not all great national team came from communist regimes, but most of them were constructed by coaches who drew their players from two or three clubs.
Most of the great clubs, Cruyff’s Ajax, Beckenbauer’s FC Bayern, Paisley’s Liverpool, Sacchi’s Milan, and Ferguson’s Manchester United, were also based on local players that grew up together. Today’s Barcelona is a great example for a club consisting of players who grew up together playing for the same system.
Can a great team consist of professionals from all over the world, coming to play for a club they love only because it pays them well? Yes, as Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea teams had clearly proved. But it can work for a short period of time, and these teams style of soccer is less like kids playing with their friends and having fun, and more cooperate lawyers working together for their boss.
With the up and coming Uefa’s Financial Fair Play, clubs will need to adopt long term plans. With data collected over hundred years of professional soccer, it’s easy to trace a pattern where clubs who grew their own players had better results than clubs who try to buy their success.
It also makes economic sense as Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal’s chief executive, explained. Investment in youth is central to our club as it directly relates to our long-term sustainability”, Gazidis said.
It gives the stability to move forward with confidence and the freedom to act within the values that we hold at the club. And, of course, it creates pride in creating our own success.”
Do all soccer people understand this concept? Not yet, probably. Maybe the FFP will force them to realize it.