Portuguese football legend Eusebio has died at the age of 71.
The forward scored an incredible 473 goals in 440 matches for Benfica, the Portuguese giants with whom he spent most of his career and won the European Cup in 1962.
He also scored 41 goals in 64 appearances for the Portugal national team, helping them to third place in the 1966 World Cup in England – a tournament in which he was top goalscorer with nine goals.
Guardian UK reports:
Eusébio, the outstanding figure of Portuguese football before the emergence of Cristiano Ronaldo, had died aged 71.
The Portuguese sports daily A’Bola said Eusébio had died of a cardiac arrest in the early hours of Sunday morning, Reuters reported. And a spokesman for Benfica told Press Association Sport: “We have just received confirmation of the death of Eusebio. It’s a very sad day for all of us.”
He had been in poor health for some time and was hospitalised during Euro 2012 after suffering a heart scare in Poland. Benfica fans will now be offered the chance to pay their final respects to the player at the Estadio da Luz later on Sunday.
“Eusebio’s body will be brought to the stadium later today and all fans will be able to say goodbye,” the spokesman said.
Eusébio, born in Mozambique, then a Portuguese colony, was the top scorer at the World Cup finals in 1966, where he led his country to the semi-final, which they lost 2-1 to England.
Eusébio won 64 caps for Portugal and the European Cup with Benfica in 1962, but was also feted as black Africa’s first international football star.
In a Guardian interview before the first World Cup on African soil in 2010, he said he learnt to play with “socks or newspaper rolled into a ball”.
He went on to score a phenomenal 727 goals in 715 games for his beloved Benfica and was Portugal’s leading scorer until surpassed by Ronaldo. He was named European footballer of the year in 1965.
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) January 5, 2014
Tributes immediately began to flow on Twitter and videos of his most famous goals were posted online. Ronaldo posted a photo of the pair together, calling him “always eternal”.
RIP Eusebio, wonderful footballer and genuinely modest ambassador for both Portuguese football and Benfica
— Keir Radnedge (@KeirRadnedge) January 5, 2014
“He was one of the great figures of Portugal. I think he is immortal. We all know what he meant for football and especially for Portuguese football,” the Chelsea manager, José Mourinho, told Portugal’s state broadcaster RTP.
“He was not only a great inspiration but also an important figure in upholding the values, principles and feelings of football, even after finishing his career,” Mourinho added.
Watch a video of his most famous goals below: