After being relegated at the end of last season for the first time since 1994, where has it all gone wrong for MTK after their league win in 2008 & is there a chance of a brighter future for the Hungarian giants?
Magyar Testgyakorlók Köre Budapest are the second most successful club in Hungary having won the league title 23 times, and the Hungarian Cup 12 times. Unlike other Hungarian sides, MTK have also had a relative success in Europe, where they became the first Hungarian side (not including the Fairs Cup) to reach a major European final in 1964, losing to Sporting Lisbon 1-0 in a UEFA Cup Winners Cup playoff, after the first game ended 3-3.
Their rich history within the game include former managers such as the great pioneer that is Jimmy Hogan, Nándor Hidegkuti and former Ajax coach Henk Ten Cate to go along with famous players such as Bela Guttmann, Gusztav Sebes, Akos Buzsaky and Hidegkuti again, the spearhead of the Mighty Magyars attack.
Together with a rich history, they have also had relative success recently finishing runners-up of Nb1 in 2007, and winning the title in 2003 & 2008. But by 2008 the foundations were already in place for the demise of Hungary’s 2nd greatest club.
The current owner of MTK is Gábor Várszegi, an extremely wealthy Jewish businessman who has owned the club for nearly 17 years now, taking over when MTK were back in Nb2. He’s always looked to run the club on a profit, which is almost impossible for a football club, and since the league win in 2008 he’s pushed the fans to the brink.
Várszegi became MTK's saviour when they were relegated back in 1994 and made them the best team in Hungary in just 3 years, whilst investing in a superb academy which in the end helped them win the league title in 1997, 1999, 2003 & 2008, and brought through players such as Akos Buzsaky, Roland Juhász and Marton Fulop. However in recent years he has fallen out of love with MTK and no longer cares about long-term profit or the huge possibilities of European football, and that is down to two unsuccessful European campaigns.
When MTK won the title in 1997, their side contained 6 Hungarian National Team players, after Várszegi invested good money in the club, but they still couldn't qualify to Champions League. Again in 1998-99, the team had many quality players but failed once again to get into Europe, and this is when Várszegi decided to give up spending money on transfers and decided to bring in free transfers and invest in young, home-grown talent.
But now 10 years along the line, Várszegi has gone to the extreme, and is now crippling the club that he once so famously loved.
At every opportunity he’s looked to sell their best players to other rival Nb1 sides, or any other side that would want to take them. These players include; Zoltán Pollak to Újpest, Gabor Bori to Újpest, András Gosztonyi to Videoton, László Lencse to Videoton, Patrick Tischler to Oldham (on loan) - the list is endless. And these players aren’t old men coming to the end of the career; these are bright young talent (Gosztonyi and Tischler are two of Hungary’s brightest stars) who wanted to stay at MTK but were pushed out by the hierarchy.
In 2007 a link was set up with Liverpool FC, which brought in more money for Várszegi and chairman Domonyai. The link saw more youngsters move from MTK including Krisztian Nemeth, Andras Simon, Peter Gulacsi, Krisztian Adorjan just to name a few. Obviously this a great opportunity for the young Hungarians, which hopefully improve their career chances, but with so many of MTK’s best talent moving away it’s no surprise that they’ve struggled in the league.
There’s obviously fundamentally wrong with the way the club is run, and even though it’s hard to blame the whole failure of a club on two people, a very high percentage of the fault lies at their feet. Várszegi and Domonyai have sold all of MTKs best assets for their own personal greed, and Domonyai even said earlier in the season “Someone has to get relegated.” Now if that’s not a quote from an unambitious chairman then I don’t know what is.
I can’t see this sort of thing being allowed to happen in somewhere like England or Germany so should the MLSZ (Hungarian Football Federation) step in? It’s not really up to them at the end of the day, and I don’t know what they can really do about it. So should the MTK fans do more? Well there have been a few demonstrations from MTK fans about the situation, but nothing to worry Várszegi, so yes more could be done from them.
Thankfully for MTK fans, Várszegi is looking to sell the club because it is becoming a “financial burden” but would anyone want to a buy a 2nd division Hungarian club for way over the odds? There is obviously a chance for someone to come in and be a saviour of the club, just like Várszegi saved MTK 17 years ago, and hopefully for MTK that man comes along sooner than later, otherwise MTK could be in Hungary’s 2nd tier for quite some time.