« He was the most gifted player. He was incredibly talented and although Standard was highly rated internationally, I often wondered why this star player from Partizan came to play for us. He was tailor-made for Italian or Spanish football. »
– Louis Pilot (Standard 1961-1972)
When Milan Galic makes his debut for the Rouches in the Astrid Park on the 9th of October 1966, the amazement is immense. A Belgian club that manages to transfer one of the best strikers in Europe is simply incredible. It is however one of the many achievements of secretary general Roger Petit. By current standards, it would mean that Chairman Bruno Venanzi succeeds in bringing Robert Lewandovski to Sclessin!
That Milan would become one of the very best Yugoslavian football players ever was not a foregone conclusion. His first years of life were nothing but doom and gloom. At the start of the war, in 1941, father Ilija gets killed on the front line, leaving Sofia behind with four young sons. The two elders imitate their late father and join the rebels. The two youngest move with mother Sofia to safer places, but with the end of World War II in sight, tragedy strikes again and the four children also lose their mother. Without parents, the two youngest are separated and spend their childhood from one shelter to another.
However, the dramatic experience seems to give Milan the courage and persistence to press on. At school he shows himself to be a diligent student, but also on the playground he discovers a new passion with football. The now 14-year-old Milan joins a real football club team for the very first time, F.C. Proleter. « That was actually a coincidence. I hung out around the field when the players asked to play because they were only 10, and that’s how I started my career there. », he laughed. He soon feels at home with his new small local team and can’t stop scoring. « After a few seasons I am called by our coach Kolarov who tells me that he will drive me to Red Star Belgrade the next day, because he cannot teach me anything new. » The local scouts do not see the talent of the top scorer however and Milan is sent back home. The following week, an increasingly determined Kolarov takes his prodigy to the neighbours from Partizan where he immediately gets a contract with the club of his great idol, Stjepan Bobek. « I was delighted to be able to play football at the great Partizan. »
Star in and of his country
And from that moment on it goes fast, very fast even. At Partizan he becomes the emblematic club captain in the next few years, with no fewer than four titles in the national league, and as the ultimate highlight the – albeit lost – final, in Brussels in 1966, in the European Champion’s Cup against Real Madrid. Galic was part of the so-called Partizan Babies generation and ended up playing a whopping 281 games in which he scored 165 goals.
However, it would be wrong to reduce Milan Galic to a goal machine. The striker was very agile and technically skilled, which meant that he could also manage as a number 10 and as a winger. His healthy aggression combined with his technical baggage made him an all-rounder who was a terror to many a defender. « I mainly remember him as a very friendly and correct player, who put himself at the service of the team when he arrived with us. », explains ex-Rouche James Storme.
As an international, his career is also a hit. In his debut match against Bulgaria, as part of the qualification for the European Championship in Paris, he scores after just 27 seconds and becomes a guarantee for important international goals. Only four countries qualify for that European Championship, including Yugoslavia. Milan opens the score in the opening game against France. The visitors would eventually win the match from the host country with 4:5. Milan also opens the score in the final, this time with a header, but the Russians turn the tide and crown themselves European Champions.
The national team does not have much time to reflect, because the Olympic Games in Rome are just around the corner. At the age of barely 22, he is assigned the captain’s armband. In the semi-final, Galic scores in extra time, but the Azzuri equalise and … a draw decides that Milan Galic’s troops can progress to the finals, where they meet Denmark. In that final, highs (a goal from Galic after 1 minute) and lows (an exclusion after 30 minutes) are close to each other, but Milan Galic and Yugoslavia crown themselves Olympic champions! A brilliant performance for the team that is dubbed the European Brazil.
The World Cup in Chile in 1962, where they made it to the last four, would however, be the last important achievement of this talented generation. In total Milan Galic plays 51 games and scores 37 goals, making him the second top scorer of all time.
At the age of 27 he ha to quite the game for a year due to his military service. In a year with no football, he returns just in time for the final against Real Madrid in May, but without any rhythm he doesn’t influence the game, nor the result, and Partizan loses the most important game in their history.
The foreign adventure in Liège
A year later he does get permission to leave Yugoslavia, although the choice is limited to Germany, the Netherlands or … Belgium. Without really realizing it, he gives a manager the power of attorney to sign with the Rouches. « I didn’t really know the club very well, and was not eager to go to rainy Belgium. Certainly because Inter, AC Milan, Juventus and especially Real Madrid did everything they could to get me in, but the restriction on foreign players did not allow that. », Milan recalled in an interview later.
With the new 1966-1967 season just around the corner, Milan Galic is eager to join his new club. He ends up in a team that finished in second place for three consecutive seasons and yearned for new successes. The team was nevertheless bursting with talent with, among others, Jean Nicolay, Lucien Spronk, Jacques Beurlet, Louis Pilot, Roger Claessen, James Storme and captain Léon Semmeling. After a year of not playing and adapting to a new club, country and culture, Milan makes its debut against the arch rival from Brussels. « I was certainly not great those first weeks. », he admitted frankly. However, it would not stop him from scoring 9 more times in his first season, and being a strong complement to the legendary Roger Claessen who would go on to score 16 goals.
« Roger was an incredible talent. He could really do anything with the ball. We were true friends at that time. He was the James Dean of his generation and I am so sorry that he no longer lived for his job. There was so much more in him. » However, the season ends in a personal disappointment. Although Galic assisted the first goal in the successful Belgian Cup final (3:1 win against KV Mechelen), he gets injured with a (first) knee injury.
However, the medical staff does miracles and the striker joins the team of fellow countryman and coach Milan Pavic after the summer. The opponents begin to target him, and especially his knee, with the last straw being the match against Beveren, which prompted a new knee operation in February 1968. A serious blow for the player and the club, who cannot count on the striker in the important matches against AC Milan. And despite the fact that Claessen closes the season with no less than 20 goals, the Rouches finish in a disappointing 3rd place and the sign for Roger Petit to turn the page.
Two league titles
With the new coach René Hauss, and some targeted purchases such as Antal Nagy (20 goals!), Erwin Kostedde, Henri Depireux, and the little general Wilfried Van Moer, the Rouches cannot be stopped. And although he scores “only” five times, the Rouches do tie back with the Belgian title. Milan is growing to his best shape, delivering several assists for top striker Antal Nagy.
When Nagy gets his transfer after only one season – that was also Roger Petit – Galic is pushed forward up field. And the striker does not disappoint. Just like in his best days, he scores from all angles, ending the season with 18 goals in the league, and most importantly, a third trophy! The Rouches do indeed win the second national title in a row under René Hauss. Both on and off the field it clicks with his fellow countryman Silvester Takac, who himself also scored no less than 13 times in the league.
Ultimately, Milan Galic scores 41 times in 110 official games for Standard, and was a key link in one of the most talented generations the club has known. He ends his period in Belgium in 1970, before moving to Stade Reims in France for three seasons.
In 1973 he returned to Yugoslavia to graduate that same year from the Faculty of Law and started a career as a lawyer with the national football association until he retired.
In 2014 news reaches us that Milan Galic died unexpectantly at the age of 76. Rest In Peace Rouche!
(c) Marc Coudijzer – May 2021
Date of birth: 8th March 1938, in Maleševci (YUG)
Date of death: 13 September 2014, in Belgrade (SER)
Nationality: Yugoslavia / Serbia
Affiliated at Standard: 22 June 1966 – 10 August 1970
Trophies with Standard: 1x Belgian F.A. Cup (1967), 2x Belgian Champions (1969, 1970)
International games / goals: 51 / 37
1952 – 1954
F.K. Proleter (JOE)
1954 – 1959
1959 – 1966
1966 – 1970
1970 – 1973
F.K. Proleter (JOE)
F.K. Partizan Belgrado (JOE)
Royal Standard Club Liégeois
Stade Reims (FRA)
Belgian F.A. Cup
Belgian League Cup
Belgian F.A. Cup
Belgian League Cup