5 Jan 2014

Portugal football legend Eusebio dies at 71

One of the world’s all-time football greats, the Portugal and Benfica forward Eusebio, dies at the age of 71.

Nicknamed the Black Panther, Eusebio was regarded as one of the best players ever and helped Portugal to third place at the 1966 World Cup, finishing as top scorer in that tournament with nine goals.

The Mozambique-born striker made his name at club level with Benfica, winning 11 league titles and one European Cup during a 15-year spell there. He also won two Golden Boot awards as Europe’s leading goalscorer.

He 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.”

Eusebio at the 1966 World Cup – video courtesy of YouTube

Footballing greats including Franz Beckenbauer and Peter Schmeichel tweeted their condolences.

Former England striker Gary Lineker said on Twitter: “Sad news that Eusebio has died. One of the greats of his generation. Could play and strike a ball like very few others.”

The club were unable to confirm the details of Eusebio’s death, but reports in Portugal say he died of a heart attack in the early hours of Sunday morning.

He had been in poor health for some time and was taken to hospital 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 club spokesman said.

Eusebio playing for Benefica at Arsenal in Highbury in 1971 (g)

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 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 cups and a European Cup on top of his list of league titles.

Despite his prolific scoring record and international renown, his only appearance at a World Cup finals was in 1966 in England, where Portugal were knocked out in the semi-finals by the hosts.