Reports coming from Portugal early on Sunday morning have confirmed that legendary footballer Eusébio has died of cardiac failure at the age of 71. In declining health for several years, the Benfica icon was said to have “become very fragile” according to his biographer Joao Malheiro.
The Mozambique born forward was one of Europe’s finest players during the 1960’s, scoring nine goals and winning the Golden Boot at the 1966 World Cup as Portugal finished third. With club side Benfica, he won the European Cup in 1962 and was a finalist on three further occasions throughout the decade.
The Black Panther, as he was known, scored a hugely impressive 473 goals for Benfica and remains the club’s all time record scorer. In 1965 he was named European Footballer of the Year and three years later he was the inaugural winner of the European Golden Shoe, awarded to the continent’s top scorer each season. In more than 12 years as an international Eusébio scored 41 goals in 61 appearances for Portugal, a mark bettered only by Pauleta and Cristiano Ronaldo, both of whom have far more caps.
Having joined Benfica from Sporting Lourenço Marques where played in his native Mozambique, Eusébio eventually left the Lisbon giants in 1975 after 15 glorious seasons, seeing out the rest of his career at various clubs in Portugal and North America.
Eusébio is widely considered among the very best to have ever played football. Speaking on Sky Sports News in the wake of the announcement, former Spurs midfielder Alan Mullery put the forward right at the top with Pele as the greatest ever. Cristiano Ronaldo has already paid his respects, writing on Twitter, “Always eternal, Eusébio, rest in peace”, while Luis Figo has called him “the King”.
A true great respected all over the world, Eusébio will live long in memory.