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  Friday, 17 May, 2002, 14:45 GMT 15:45 UK
Ex-Barca star Kubala dies
Former Barcelona forward and Spain coach Ladislao Kubala - hailed by Barca fans as the club's greatest ever player - has died after several months of illness at the age of 74.

A minute's silence was held at the end of the presentation of Barcelona's new coach Louis van Gaal on Friday when news of Kubala's death was announced by president Joan Gaspart.

The Hungarian-born Kubala, voted the greatest player in the club's history during their centenary year in 1999, was admitted to a Barcelona clinic on 12 February because of a calcium deficiency in his blood.

After beginning his professional career at Ferencvaros shortly after the Second World War, Kubala fled Hungary for Italy in 1948 but was unable to play any official matches when Fifa agreed to ban him following a request by the Hungarian Federation.

Together with other Eastern European refugees, Kubala formed a team that toured western Europe and after a sparkling performance in Spain he was signed by Barcelona in 1950.

Bureaucratic complications delayed his official debut until the following year, but his future at the Catalan club was assured after he adopted Spanish nationality.

His arrival at Barcelona coincided with a golden era at the club, the so-called "equipo de las Cinco Copas", as they won five trophies between 1951 and 1953.

Renowned for his superb technique, outstanding physical strength and powerful shot, Kubala helped the club win four league titles, five Spanish Cups and two Fairs Cups before retiring in the 1961-1962 season.

He played 329 games for Barcelona, scoring 256 goals in his 10 years at the club.

Kubala, who also played for Czechoslovakia and Hungary, went on to make 19 appearances for Spain, scoring 11 goals for his adopted country.

Following his retirement he coached Barca until he was sacked in 1963. He joined Espanyol, where he made a comeback and played alongside Spain's other great import, the Argentine-born Alfredo di Stefano.

Kubala coached the Spanish national team for 68 games from 1969 to 1980, holding the post for longer than anyone before or since and finishing with a record of won 31, drawn 21 and lost 16.

He made a brief return as Barca coach in 1980, but lasted just five months before being sacked.

Before retiring from coaching Kubala also had brief spells in charge of the national teams of Saudi Arabia and Paraguay.

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