We are back playing in Vienna, the city where lies former late Red and Black coach Bela Guttmann.
Walfischgasse, the area of the museums in Vienna (the Natural History Museum, the museum in Karlsplatz, the Leopold Museum), not far from the Hofburg, winter residence of Princess Sisi: this is where Bela Guttmann closed his eyes for ever. It might take us some time to decide whether the Jewish Hungarian, who became what Arpad Weisz did not manage to become because of the Nazis, should be remembered for discovering Cesare Maldini or for the two European Cup finals.
Bella Guttman's story begins at the dawn of great Europan football and lives throughout history. Vienna, the city where we will make our Europa League debut, is the centre of the universe of a historic manager.
BELA GUTTMANN AND CESARE MALDINI
In 1950-51, the coach born in Budapest in 1899 a few months before AC Milan was founded, was Triestina's manager. That's where he discovered a young Cesare Maldini playing in the team's Academy. On 21 February 1954, Bela Guttmann, coach of AC Milan won 6-0 against his former team Triestina. Cesare Maldini found a starting berth, it was a heavy defeat, but after the match, Bela would say:
"This kid should play for AC Milan, and he will".
Cesare was a tall, handsome and young pure talent. He was considered 'The' player by Bela. You can think that the admiration for the city of Trieste of coach Guttmann and his bond with Cesare Maldini were somehow a way to protect AC Milan from his 'curse'. What curse?
BELA GUTTMANN: IT ALL STARTED IN 1962
On 2 May 1962, at the Olympisch Stadion in Amsterdam, Benfica coached by Bela Guttmann defeated the great Real Madrid of Puskas and Di Stefano in the European Cup final. A great and historic achievement. The victory led him to ask for a reward, but the Lisbon's side management eventually turned him down: the contract had no clause which stated that the club was meant to pay any sum whatsoever. This led Guttmann to put a curse on Benfica:
"You won't win a European competition in 100 years".
From that moment on, Benfica lost in all Europan Cup finals - five - two against AC Milan and UEFA Cup/Europa League finals played against Anderlecht (1983), Chelsea (2013) and Sevilla (2014).
THE 'EFFECTS' ON AC MILAN
In 1990, as the European Cup final was about to be played in Vienna, Eusébio prayed on the Viennese grave of his former coach, Bela Guttmann. But this had no effect: 1-0 to the Rossoneri, thanks to Rijkaard's goal. AC Milan were the first club in history, at Wembley in May 1963, to play a European Cup final against Benfica after the 'curse': 2-1 with a brace from Altafini. The other final played at the Prater in Vienna, in 1995, AC Milan lost not against Benfica but to Ajax in an unlucky game... Maybe Bela wanted to pay homage to Amsterdam, the city of his historic win in 1962?
His last job was to coach Austria Wien of all teams, before closing his eyes forever in 1981, aged 82, only two years younger than 'his' Cesare Maldini.