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Ștefan Kovács : biography

2 October 1920 - 12 May 1995

Ștefan Kovács ( 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. Kovács will be foremost remembered for his outstanding successes with Ajax in the early 1970s.


Born 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.

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 honours

  • Steaua București:
    • Romanian League (1): 1967–68
    • Romanian Cup (2): 1968–69, 1969–70
  • Ajax:
    • Dutch League (2): 1971–72, 1972–73
    • Dutch Cup (1): 1971–72
    • European Cup (2): 1971–72, 1972–73
    • European Super Cup (1): 1972
    • Intercontinental Cup (1): 1972
  • Panathinaikos:
    • Greek Cup (1): 1981–82
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