Sixty years ago today Real Madrid and Eintracht Frankfurt contested what for many remains the greatest club game of all time.
Scotland was privileged to host the fifth staging of the European Cup final and almost 130,000 crammed into Hampden to witness the incomparable Spanish side clinch the trophy with a display of football never seen before, or perhaps since, on these shores.
Glasgow belonged to Ferenc Puskás and Alfredo Di Stefano that evening as Real’s stellar duo dismantled the German side.
Hugh McIlvanney, covering the game for The Scotsman, later described the 1960 final as “a watershed for me, as it was for so many. Here was the game as we had always known it could and should be played”.
His match report appeared in The Scotsman the following day. Writing in McIlvanney on Football, a compendium of his finest writing on the game published in 1994, McIlvanney, who died last year, said: “If the ending seems abrupt and unrounded, that is because the edition was going to press.”
The caveat hardly seemed necessary. This was, after all, the greatest sportswriter writing about the greatest game.
Almost 130,000 Scottish football enthusiasts were privileged last night to see Real Madrid display the unmatchable talents that have made them the greatest club side in the history of world foot ball.
The fact they were engaged in winning the European Cup for the fifth successive year seemed equally inevitable and incidental, in the midst of some of the most magnificent sporting artistry Hampden Park has ever seen.
Fittingly, the great Glasgow stadium responded with the loudest and most sustained ovation it has given to non-Scottish athletes. The strange emotionalism that overcame the huge crowd as the triumphant Madrid team circled the field at the end, carrying the trophy they have monopolised since its inception, showed that they had not simply been entertained .
They had been moved by the experience of seeing a sport played to its ultimate standards. Similarly, their tributes to Eintracht, a team whose quality deserved better than the role of heroic losers, contained a reverence for something Scotland cannot equal.
Scots in the ground could not conceal an awestruck appreciation of the glories that had been paraded before them. It is one thing to see the wonders of Puskas, Di Stefano, Gento, Vidal and the rest on a television screen. It is another to see them in the flesh, to hear their urgent shouts as they wreak precise devastation on an opposing defence. Last night they flaunted all that has made them incomparable .
The unflagging generalship of Di Stefano, the technical perfection and breathtaking ingenuity in Puskas, the industry of Del Sol; the deadly pace of Gento, the striking directness of Canario, and behind all that the drive of Vidal and the dominating strength of Santamaria and his defence.
Eintracht will realise that they are saluted, when it is said that they never ceased to be worthy opponents for the masters. Some of their players, such men as Kress, Stein, Weilbaecher and Loy, rose close to the peerless level of Madrid, and the others, if less gifted, were equally gallant.
The tense expectancy of the audience emphasised the untidy, uninspired nature of play in the early minutes. But the quality of the players steadily overcame the unfamiliar peculiarities of the ground, and the Scottish spectators settled to enjoy their national game as only foreigners can play it.
Their sympathies were clearly with the German underdogs, who were already showing more bite than many had anticipated. Eintracht eventually claimed full reward for their early rightwing assaults in the 20th minute. Stein accelerated along the bye-line and cut the ball sharply back for Kress to leap inside Santamaria and sweep it to the net from half a dozen yards.
Madrid’s urgency increased visibly after that goal, and their scientific onslaught forced the Eintracht defence to yield an equalising goal in the 26th minute. The goal was characteristic of the journeyman efficiency of the great Spanish side. Canario beat Hoefer simply on the right, and his low cross eluded everyone but Di Stefano, who was perfectly positioned to direct the ball past Loy.
Three minutes later the centre forward’s faultless positioning and alertness were again illustrated when a swerving shot from Canario spun away from the diving body of the German goalkeeper. Di Stefano covered four or five yards before any other player moved an inch, and hooked the ball over the prostrate figure of Loy to the net .
Real’s superiority was now unmistakable and one minute from the interval Loy fell victim to the type of goal that has become almost the hallmark of the Puskas genius. The Hungarian insideleft, taking a pass from the fluent feet of Del Sol, jockeyed for position on the bye-line and from a truly incredible angle, drove the ball surely into the net directly above the Eintracht goalkeeper’s hand.
Lutz, who was apparently taking little comfort from the knowledge that he was opposed to the fastest forward in the world, allowed his frustration to express itself illegally from time to time, and one such lapse brought the maximum punishment in the 54th minute. The full-back pushed Gento in a race for the ball, and Mr Jack Mowat, after a discussion with a linesman, awarded a penalty.
Puskas was called upon to take the kick, and coped with the expected competence. Six minutes later he gave more striking evidence of his craftsmanship by scoring his side’s fifth and his own third goal. Gento’s speed was again the preliminary factor, for the winger outstripped Lutz to cross accurately to his inside left. Puskas merely seemed to bow acknowledgement of his colleague’s excellence as he headed the ball inside Loy’s right-hand post.
The Puskas mastery once more left the huge crowd stunned in the 70th minute, when he reached back for a straying pass from Vidal, halted the ball and pivoted swiftly to chip a splendid left-foot shot high into the net from 16 yards .
Within two minutes Stein shot a fine second goal for the Germans, but the achievement merely stressed that Real were outclassing a good-class team.
As if to underline the point further, Di Stefano ran through almost immediately, sent several defenders moving in an unprofitable direction, while he steered the ball along the most rewarding route of all – to the net. A quarter of an hour from the end Vidal made one of his very few errors in misplacing a pass to his goalkeeper, and Stein jumped in to take a third goal for Eintracht.