Portugal Legend Eusebio Dies Aged 71

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2014

Michael Regan/Getty Images

Portuguese football legend Eusebio da Silva Ferreira has passed away at the age of 71.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest to ever play the game, the man known simply as Eusebio was the top scorer at the 1966 World Cup in England. He netted nine times in the tournament, including a four-goal haul against North Korea. Altogether, he scored 733 times in 745 career matches.

His honours include a 1962 European Cup medal with Benfica, before finding himself on the losing side to Manchester United in 1968. During his 15 years with the Portuguese giants, he picked up 10 league championships and five Portuguese cups.

He was also named as European Footballer of the Year in 1965.

Eusebio has been in and out of hospital during the past 12 months due to health problems, and news of his passing has been met with an outpouring of grief and a flurry of tributes from the footballing world.

Portugal and Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo took to Twitter to pay his respects to the great man:

Another Portugal legend, Luis Figo, paid tribute, tweeting, “The king! Great loss for all of us! The greatest!”:

FIFA president Sepp Blatter also paid his respects via social media:

Eusebio captured the imagination of the British public with his remarkable performances at the 1966 World Cup. His blistering pace, marvellous control and expert finishing were enough for Portugal to secure third place at the tournament.

His four-goal haul against South Korea in a 5-3 win at Goodison Park, a game in which the Portuguese were 3-0 down, remains one of the most iconic World Cup performances to date.

He left the pitch in floods of tears after his team were eventually knocked out by England in the semifinals, but he went on to play at the very top level with Benfica for a further eight years.

Knee problems punctured the latter part of his career, and he left Benfica after scoring 727 goals in 715 appearances for the club.

He went in search of pastures new, and he had spells in the North American Soccer League with the Boston Minutemen and Toronto Metros-Croatia in the twilight of his career. He eventually retired in 1979.

When asked in an interview with The Guardian’s Paul Hayward back in 2010 on whether he feels Cristiano Ronaldo might surpass him as Portugal’s greatest ever, Eusebio’s response was typically insightful:

Seven-times best footballer [in Portugal], top scorer at the World Cup, voted into the all-time Fifa top 10. Those are just the facts. I'm not sure whether anyone can surpass that. It's up to you guys to decide. I'm proud to say I've done something for the good of football. I don't compare myself to anyone.

Born in Mozambique, he is widely regarded as the greatest-ever African-born player.