Hungary: Fradi make it five in a row

HUNGARIAN football continues to be dominated by Ferencváros; the famous green and white shirts clinched the title on May 8 after their nearest rivals, Kecskemét, slipped-up against struggling Honved. The top two actually met after Fradi had already been named champions and Kecskemét won 2-0, but it was too late to change anything. Hungary’s most decorated team had been top since the first league tables were compiled in 2022-23.

Although Ferencváros show no sign of loosening their grip on Magyar football, the league’s crowds are at their highest level since 2011-12. The average in 2022-23 for the top division is 3,360 with Ferencváros drawing over 10,000 at their home games. The other teams in Budapest, Ujpest, Honved and Vasas, cannot attract those sort of attendances, and with Fradi earning money from a decent European campaign, the financial differential between them and their rivals is difficult to close. 

In the transfer market, for example, they have spent almost € 5 million this season, more than the rest of the top division combined. In the winter transfer window, they signed Myenty Abena from Slovan Bratislava and Iwusu Kwabena from Qarabag and sold Aissa Laiudouni to Union Berlin.

Fradi hired Stanislav Cherchesov, the former Russia manager, in 2021 and his record has been impressive: two league titles and a Hungarian Cup win in 2022, as well as a run to the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League after topping a group that included Monaco, Real Betis and Trabzonspor. They were beaten by Bayer Leverkusen in the knockout phase.

Cherchesov, perhaps unsurprisingly, signed a petition of protest against the exclusion of Russian football teams due to the Ukrainian war. He took over from Peter Stoger, who had been in the job only a short time after the departure of former Tottenham and Ukraine striker Sergei Rebrov.

Cherchesov, who coached Russia in the 2018 World Cup, is something of a disciplinarian and has a very physical approach. It’s a slightly bizarre situation because Hungary has strong links with Ukraine and since the start of the war, Fradi have provided training opportunities for Ukrainian refugee children. They are not the only club to try and help victims of Russia’s aggression – Kisvarda, from a town of 15,000 in north east Hungary and 20 minutes from the Ukrainian border, provided financial support to footballers in Ukraine who were going without wages.

While Ferencvaros retained their NB I (Namzeti Bajnokság I) title, they missed out on the Magyar Kupa, getting knocked out in the round of 32 by third-tier club Iváncsa. The cup final involved NB II side Budafok and Zalaegerszegi, with the latter winning 2-0 thanks to two goals in the last three minutes of extra time.

As for Fradi, they have benefitted from the goals of Moroccan strike Ryan Mmaee and the Mali winger Adama Traoré, but the leading scorer in the league is Barnabás Varga of Paks, who has 26 NB I goals, which is double the total of the second highest marksman, Honved’s Nenad Lukić. Mmaee (25), is being eyed by Premier League Leeds United.

At the other end of the table, Vasas have been relegated to NB II and Honved, the club of Ferenc Puskás, are not yet out of trouble, while in the second division, MTK from the capital have won promotion, along with Diósgyóri VTK. There are two rounds remaining in NB I, Honved have to play almost safe Mezõkövesd and Puskás Akadémia, while Fehérvár, the other threatened club, play host to Zalaegerszegi and travel to Vasas. It will go to the final game on May 27.