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Ștefan Kovács (Romanian: Ştefan Covaci; Hungarian: Kovács István; 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.
Kovács in 1971
|Full name||Ștefan Kovács|
|Date of birth||2 October 1920|
|Place of birth||Timișoara, Romania|
|Date of death||12 May 1995(aged 74)|
|Place of death||Cluj-Napoca, Romania|
|1941–1942||CFR Turnu Severin|
|1942–1947||Kolozsvári AC / Ferar Cluj|
|* 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.
He died on 12 May 1995, twelve days before Ajax won their fourth European Cup.