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Ștefan Kovács (Romanian: Ştefan Covaci; Hungarian: Kovács István;[1] 2 October 1920 – 12 May 1995) was a Romanian football player and coach. By winning 15 major titles he is one of the most successful association football coaches in the history of the game. In 2019 France Football ranked him at No. 43 on their list of the Top 50 football managers of all time.[2]

Ștefan Kovács
Stefan Kovacs.jpg
Kovács in 1971
Personal information
Full name Ștefan Kovács
Date of birth (1920-10-02)2 October 1920
Place of birth Timișoara, Romania
Date of death 12 May 1995(1995-05-12) (aged 74)
Place of death Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Playing position Midfielder
Youth career
1931–1934 CA Timişoara
1934–1937 CA Oradea
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1937–1938 CA Oradea
1938–1941 Olympique Charleroi
1941 Ripensia Timișoara
1941–1942 CFR Turnu Severin
1942–1947 Kolozsvári AC / Ferar Cluj
1947–1950 CFR Cluj
1950–1953 Universitatea Cluj
Teams managed
1952 Universitatea Cluj
1954–1955 Universitatea Cluj
1956 Universitatea Cluj
1960–1962 CFR Cluj
1962–1967 Romania (assistant)
1967–1970 Steaua București
1971–1973 Ajax
1973–1975 France
1976–1979 Romania
1980 Romania
1981–1983 Panathinaikos
1986–1987 Monaco
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only


Born into an ethnic Hungarian family in Timișoara, Romania, Kovács was an average midfielder, although having both individual technique and tactical intuition. He was never selected to play for Romania unlike his older brother Nicolae Kovács, who was one of the five players who participated at all three World Cups before the Second World War.

Kovács had his first major coaching successes at the helm of Steaua București, where he won between 1967 and 1971 once the championship and three times the cup of Romania.

After this he succeeded Rinus Michels as the head of Ajax in 1971, continuing and expanding on his "total football" philosophy. With Ajax he achieved in 1972 and 1973, two consecutive European Champions Cups. In 1972, he even won the Intercontinental Cup and also the first edition of European Supercup (1973). Further to that he led Ajax to the double of cup and championship in 1972 and another national championship in 1973.

After he left Ajax in 1973, he was called up by the French football federation to take the reins of the national side. In this position he raised the young generations of French talents. Journalists of France Football asked him when he arrived how long it would take to make the France team a great team, he replied visionary with structures in eight years, ten years, we can make a good national team. Michel Hidalgo, his deputy and successor, took advantage of this work and continued to lead the team of France to its victory at Euro 84. Kovács remains the only foreign manager of the French national side.

After this episode, he returned to Romania becoming its national team coach. Later he had further successes with Panathinaikos and Monaco.

He died on 12 May 1995, twelve days before Ajax won their fourth European Cup.

Managerial honoursEdit


  • Kovács, Ștefan (1975). Football Total. Calmann-Lévy - Paris. ISBN 2-7021-0019-8.


External linksEdit