‘Mly’ (Józef Młynarczyk at Porto)

In an excellent guest post on the blog, Mário Silva, takes us back to a time when another famous goalkeeper apart from Iker Casillas – Poland’s Józef Młynarczyk – was signed by Porto, and the cult hero status that ‘Mly’ acquired due to his spell in Portugal.

Following Porto’s defeat in the 1984 European Cup Winners Cup Final vs Juventus (with the decisive goal being scored by Zbigniew Boniek), it became clear that Zé Beto, despite being a quality goalkeeper wasn’t fit to propel Porto to the very top due to his ‘difficult personality’, something that got him suspended by UEFA for one year after trying to assault the linesman during that non-memorable final in 1984.

Petar Borota (a Chelsea keeper in the early 1980s) was the first attempt to resolve the issue but his spell wasn’t successful and Porto ended up losing to the Welsh club Wrexham in the 1984-5 European Cup Winners Cup, with the Yugoslavian keeper being blamed for the errors that dictated Porto’s early exit.  These were the only two games he played for the Portuguese club.

The next season, Zé Beto returned to his post as first choice in European competitions as the ban had expired; despite this Porto’s search for a goalkeeper didn’t stop and in the middle of the season they managed to convince Polish national team goalkeeper Józef Młynarczyk to move to the club from the Corsican side Bastia. With Porto already eliminated from the European Cup by Barcelona in November, the fight to be first choice goalkeeper was focused on the league.

As an experienced keeper, and a starter for one of the strongest national sides in Europe at the time, ‘Mly’ (as he was called by Porto’s fans) had no problem impressing both the manager Artur Jorge and the rest of the team. His debut came on 5 January 1986 in the always fiery “Clássico” vs Benfica.  In Lisbon in front of more than 90 thousand fans, Mly showed all his qualities and kept a clean sheet in a game that was to prove decisive as Porto successfully lifted the Portuguese title at the end of the season.

Porto

Benfica vs Porto in the 1985-86 season: Młynarczyk’s debut match for Porto in Lisbon; a game that finished 0-0

The ‘season of glory’ happened in 1986-87. After a shaky start, Mly lost his place in the starting XI to Zé Beto; four goals conceded during the first two games of the league season were the main reason for this. Despite this situation, the Polish goalkeeper continued to work hard and once again in the second half of the season won back his place in the team and became one of the key figures in the side that would end up winning the European Cup.

Of the nine games of Porto’s successful European campaign, Mly started four; in cold conditions in Denmark vs Brondby he prevented a Danish comeback with some superb saves – especially one in the first half from a long-range shot.  However it was against the mighty Dynamo Kyiv in the semis that the best Młynarczyk appeared. After Porto had taken an early 2-0 lead in Kyiv, Dynamo did all they could to get back into the tie.  As a result Porto had to face 80 minutes of pure pressure by the then Soviet side, and it was here that Mly truly excelled by not only making a host of secure saves but also by keeping his composure and leading the defence.

“Polaco Mlynarczyk foi o homem de Kiev” (The Pole Młynarczyk was the man in Kyiv)– wrote legendary Portuguese journalist Carlos Arsénio in the sport newspaper Record the day after the match.

Porto2

‘The heroes of Kiev’ – Młynarczyk produced in Kiev/Kyiv his best ever performance for Porto, denying Belanov and Blokhin from scoring enabling Porto to advance via a 4-2 win on agg.

With the league title already lost to Benfica before the European Cup final, Porto arrived in Vienna with the sole objective of bringing home the trophy. Against heavy favorites Bayern Munich, Porto had a difficult start to the game, conceding a goal to Bayern’s Kögl in the 24th minute, but they managed to stabilise and during the second half completely outplayed the Germans with exceptional performances from Madjer and Futre.  Eventually goals by Madjer and Juary in the 79th and 81st minute brought Porto, and Młynarczyk the highest prize in club football.

If the European Cup of 1986-87 is perhaps the most important trophy that Porto ever won, the most epic final was reserved for the Intercontinental Cup vs Peñarol in December 1987; a game that – if it was played today – wouldn’t have gone ahead. The match had it all, a temperature of -7ºC, snow 20 cms deep, balls that were impossible to spot due to their colour (one was even punctured during the game).  Mly remembers this game as being the one in which he suffered the most but, despite this suffering, if there was anything cooler than the temperature it was the Polish goalkeeper.  After the game he was named “Ice cube” by Porto’s president Pinto da Costa – and to this day he is still highly praised, being, along with Madjer and Gomes, a part of the ‘Holy Trinity’ which won Porto the 1987 Intercontinental Cup title.  Młynarczyk became the one and only Polish player to lift this trophy.

Mlynarczyk

‘At half-time, I put my hands in a bowl of scalding water, while some made small fires to warm their feet. We looked like a bunch of boy scouts.’

Mly’s success for Porto continued as domestic trophies continued to fill the club cabinet, however during the 1988-9 season this came to an end. After a major injury, he would lose the number one spot to a youngster named Vítor Baía and at the end of the season the Polish giant decided to retire.

Fast forward 25 years and Porto, in Iker Casillas, have once more brought a high profile goalkeeper to the club. The Portuguese press has spent much time comparing Casilla’s arrival to that of Młynarczyk. But it will not be easy for Casillas to outdo his Polish predecessor.  My grandfather (who’s not even a Porto supporter) had these words to say to me: ‘O Casillas tem de comer muita sopa para chegar aos calcanhares do Młynarczyk’ (This Casillas has to eat a lot of soup to even reach the heels of Młynarczyk).

His football may be long gone, but he’s the best goalkeeper Porto have ever had. A legend, a winner, a true Portista.

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