Any football fan can name at least 5 names of the greatest players in football history. If you’re an educated fan, maybe you can go up to 15 or 20. Rarely is Stan Libuda among those names. And it surely isn’t for lack of footballing merit, but probably for lack of “marketing”.
A few years ago, I sat down to watch the 1966 Cup Winners’ Cup Final between Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund. I hardly knew any of the players at the time. The commentator, assisted by the then-West Ham manager Ron Greenwood –later England manager from 1977-1982 – highlighted two players of the German side for the British audience: Sigfried Held and Lothar Emmerich. Both were terrific players and had a great match continually swapping positions.
However, it was one other player who caught my eye. Dortmund’s right winger Stan Libuda. Every time he touched the ball, he oozed class. He would take on defenders and dribble with ease and beauty. Incidentally – and this is a spoiler – he ended up scoring the defining goal of the match… and what a goal it was! He got the ball outside the penalty box and he lobbed it one-touch over everyone who was inside the box. The ball ended up hitting the post, then Liverpool defender Chris Lawler and off into the net. Strictly speaking it was an own goal, but who cares after that beauty? You can see it on the goals tab of his page on Footballia.
After the match I looked him up, and the first thing that surprised me was to see him in a Schalke shirt. It turns out he had started playing for Schalke in 1962, and when Schalke got relegated in 1965, he switched to Borussia Dortmund so he wouldn’t have to move house. If such a move would have been controversial today, it was more so when he went back to Schalke in 1968! His major achievement with the Borussers was that CWC final that had revealed him to me. On the other hand, his greatest success with the Gelsenkirchen miners was the 1972 German Cup. At the moment that final is not on Footballia, but there’s this other one against the-great-Bayern-in-the-making: https://footballia.net/matches/bayern-munchen-schalke-04.
With the National Team, he was decisive in helping them qualify for the 1970 World Cup in this match against Scotland: https://footballia.net/matches/germany-scotland-world-cup-qualification, where he also scored the decisive goal. Then he would take part in 5 of Germany’s 6 matches in the tournament, including the so-called Match of the Century, the legendary semi-final against Italy. But it was the group-stage match against Bulgaria that would be dubbed ‘the match of his life’. So don’t miss out: https://footballia.net/matches/bulgaria-germany.
Later on he was involved in what became known as the Bundesliga scandal and was banned from the championship. He went on to play for Racing Strasbourg, and when he was pardoned, he returned to Schalke once again until he retired in 1976. Sadly he would die in 1996 from throat cancer.
In any case, either in blue or yellow, or even in white, Libuda was a special player. Referred to as the Artist of Dribbling, he was a genius player, one of those that do different things. His name wasn’t actually Stan but Reinhardt; he got his nickname after the great Stanley Matthews, one of the best English players of all time, which serves as proof of Libuda’s stature.
Reinhardt “Stan” Libuda, a football genius all proper fans should know about.