It’s that time again. Movember’s back, and this year it’s all about Generation Moustache. And while members of ‘Gen Mo’ are setting out to change the face of men’s health, we thought we’d celebrate by saluting the football teams that changed the face of the beautiful game – in short, some of the greatest sides of their generation.
Here, football writer Jonathan Wilson names five great teams of the 1960s and 70s…
By modern standards, football from the early sixties seems incredibly slow, with players having yards of space in which to consider their options. By the end of the decade, though, that time had gone, and players in possession are pressured. The sixties saw the birth of the modern game with the development of pressing football, the pioneers of which were the Dynamo Kyiv of Viktor Maslov. Stripped of many of his best players as they joined up with the USSR squad for the 1966 World Cup, he promoted youth and, with Andriy Biba an intelligent playmaker, they won three successive Soviet titles.
The 6-1 defeat by Czechoslovakia at the 1958 World Cup was a major shock to Argentinian football. Forced to question their reliance on attacking, technical football, the South Americans developed ‘anti-futbol’: the leading exponents of which were Estudiantes. They were nasty and cynical, to the point that it was rumoured midfielder Carlos Bilardo would take pins on to the pitch to stab opponents he was marking. Although Juan Ramon Veron (Juan Sebastian’s father) was an elegant creator, they played with the constant threat of violence. They won three successive Copa Libertadores from 1968, but their era came to an end when, with the state tiring of their excesses, three players were jailed following the particularly bloody home leg of an Intercontinental Cup clash with AC Milan in 1970.
Fans of other clubs may not have liked the pragmatism of their approach, but the Leeds Don Revie constructed was the most consistent force in the English game in the late sixties and early seventies. Had it not been for the negativity and paranoia that seemed at times to overwhelm them when glory was close, they might have won even more. As it was, the side of Billy Bremner, John Giles, Jack Charlton and Norman Hunter won the league twice, the FA Cup, the League Cup, two Fairs Cups, while also finishing second in the league five times, losing in three FA Cup finals, one Fairs Cup final and a Cup-Winners’ Cup final. Only extremely strange refereeing denied them a glorious finale in the 1975 European Cup final.
Until Enyimba of Nigeria repeated the feat in 2004, the only side to have retained the African Champions Cup was Tout Puissant Englebert, a team from Katanga that became the pride of Mobutu’s Zaire (what is now DR Congo). Mwamba Kazadi, who was subbed off with Zaire 3-0 down to Yugoslavia at the 1974 World Cup (they lost 9-0), was a fine keeper, Pierre Katumba an athletic defender, and the attacking combination of the dribbler Martin Tshinabu and the striker Mukendi Kalala devastating. They won the Champions Cup in 1967 by a walkover, with Asante Kotoko of Ghana claiming they were never told about a replay after the first two legs finished level, but a crushing victory the following year followed by successive defeats in finals proved their quality.
What Maslov had begun, Rinus Michels carried on. They almost certainly came to their conclusions on how football should be played independently, but the central tenets were the same: in possession, make the pitch as large as possible, looking to stretch the play with movement and runs from deep; out of possession, make it as small as possible, pressuring the opponent in possession while squeezing up to play an offside trap. The team Johan Cruyff led went on to win three successive European Cups, although Michels, having built the team, had departed for Barcelona after the first.
Who are the greatest sides of the 1960s and 70s? Read Jonathan's article and tweet us @ProstateUK, using the hashtag #MenUnited