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Nov 17, 2006 at 04:15pm IST

Hungarian soccer great Puskas dies

Budapest: Hungarian soccer great Ferenc Puskas has died in a Budapest hospital. He was 79.

Puskas died 0600 hrs GMT (1100 hrs IST) on Friday at the Kutvolgyi hospital due to respiratory and circulatory failure, family spokesman Gyorgy Szollosy said.

Puskas had been hospitalised for six years with Alzheimer's disease and was being treated for a fever and pneumonia for a couple of days. The captain of Hungary's "Golden Team" of the 1950s had been in intensive care since September.

AMONG THE GREATEST: Puskas (L) was battling Alzheimer's disease for six years.

Puskas scored 84 goals in 85 matches for Hungary between 1945 and 1956, leading the team to an Olympic gold medal in 1952 and to the final of the 1954 World Cup, where they lost to West Germany.

To millions of fans in Hungary, Puskas was known simply as "Ocsi" (little brother) and they made him "family."

Puskas captained what England football great Billy Wright once called "the best team in the world" in those years.

"Of all of us, he was the best," the late Nandor Hidegkuti, also a member of the Golden Team, said at Puskas' 70th birthday party in 1997. "He had a seventh sense for soccer. if there were 1,000 solutions, he'd pick the 1001st."

In 1999, Puskas was voted the sixth-best player of the 20th century, behind Pele, Johan Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer, Alfredo Di Stefano and Diego Maradona.

According to the German-based International Federation of Football History and Statistics, Puskas was the world's third-most successful national championship player.