Eusebio, considered one of the greatest footballers of all time and best ever from Portugal, has passed away. RIP Eusebio (1942-2014). One of the greats.
Former Portugal forward Eusebio has died at the age of 71, his former club Benfica have confirmed.
Nicknamed the Black Panther, Eusebio was regarded as one of the best players of all time and helped Portugal to third place at the 1966 World Cup, finishing as top scorer in the tournament with nine goals.
The Mozambique-born striker made his name at club level with Benfica, winning 11 league titles during a 15-year spell there and two Golden Boot awards as Europe’s leading goalscorer.
He also notched 41 goals in 64 appearances for Portugal.
A spokesman for Benfica said: “We have just received confirmation of the death of Eusebio. It’s a very sad day for all of us.”
The club were unable to confirm details of Eusebio’s death but reports in Portugal say he died of a cardiac arrest in the early hours of Sunday morning.
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.
Eusebio was a torment to defenders because of his speed and technique, and scored an astonishing 317 goals in 301 appearances for Benfica, where he was a player between 1960 and 1975.
He then spent the twilight of his career in North America with spells at Boston Minutemen, Toronto Metros-Croatia, the Las Vegas Quicksilvers and New Jersey Americans until a series of knee injuries forced his retirement at the age of 37.
But it was his achievements with Benfica which made him a global star, with five national cup titles and a European Cup complimenting his list of league achievements.
Despite his prolific scoring record and international renown, his only appearance at a World Cup finals was in 1966 in England.
Two of Portugal’s stars in recent years were quick to pay tribute to Eusebio as Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo both took to Twitter to hail the achievements of the Benfica legend.
“The king! Great loss for all of us! The greatest!,” wrote Figo, who retired in 2009 with a national record of 127 caps to his name, while current Portugal captain Ronaldo wrote: “Always eternal #Eusebio, rest in peace.”
Football Association chairman Greg Dyke also paid his respects and compared the striker to modern-day equivalents Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
“Every generation has great footballers,” he told BBC News.
“He was clearly a world-class footballer who scored an awful lot of goals. He had a level of natural talent that most players don’t have. He was the [Lionel Messi] or Ronaldo of his time.”
Stepney pays tribute to a sporting great
Former Manchester United goalkeeper Alex Stepney has paid tribute to Eusebio.
Stepney was involved in one of the most notable moments of Eusebio’s career when he made a save from the forward towards the end of the 1968 European Cup final between Manchester United and Benfica that proved pivotal to the outcome.
Eusebio, impressed by Stepney’s reactions, stood and applauded the United keeper in an extraordinary show of sportsmanship at Wembley which still resonates to this day.
“It wasn’t like I got a clear view of what he did at the time,” recalled Stepney.
“There was not long left in the game and I was fully focused on it.
“I made the save and out of the corner of my eye I saw him still standing in front of me. It was only afterwards that I saw what he had done.
“The fact he was standing there clapping before running away is a mark of the man.
“He respected anything we did – and I would like to think it was the same the other way round.”
Eusebio was a central figure in English football’s greatest moments of the time.
Not only was he the star of that beaten Benfica team that allowed Manchester United to become the first English winners of the European Cup, he was also the star of the Portugal side that lost in the World Cup semi-final two years earlier.
Yet those performances do not do justice to a player who was crowned European Footballer of the Year in 1965 and won the Golden Boot at the 1966 World Cup.
“Eusebio, along with Cristiano Ronaldo probably, would go down as one of the greatest of all players from Portugal,” Stepney added.
“The media attention is obviously not as great now as it was then.
“He first came to people’s attention in this country during the 1966 World Cup, when they got to the semi-final.
“I suppose the problem for him was that he didn’t enjoy playing against Nobby Stiles too much.
“The fact he lost that semi-final in ’66 and also the final against us two years later creates a false picture. In a generation of truly great players, he was one of the very best.
“I was lucky enough to meet him a few times since that 1968 European Cup final and he was the perfect gentleman.
“There are not many around now, but it seemed every club had one at that time. Today is a very sad day.”
By Telegraph Sport, and agencies
9:42AM GMT 05 Jan 2014