Portuguese football legend Eusebio dies at the age of 71
Portuguese football legend Eusebio has died just three weeks before he was due to celebrate his 72nd birthday.
Last Updated: 06/01/14 6:50am
The former Benfica and Portugal superstar, regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport alongside Pele and Diego Maradona, died after a cardiac arrest, having suffered several years of heart and respiratory problems.
He was the top scorer in the 1966 World Cup in England, when he helped Portugal to the semi-finals and a third-place finish with his nine goals in the tournament. It was the only World Cup he played in and his greatest game was in the quarter-final.
Portugal were 3-0 down to North Korea, but Eusebio inspired an incredible comeback, scoring four goals to lead the team to a stunning 5-3 victory.
In the semi-finals Portugal lost to England, and he openly wept as he left the field, sealing his place in the hearts of his countrymen for ever.
He was known as the 'Black Panther' for his athletic prowess and clinical finishing that made him one of the world's greatest goalscorers.
Eusebio da Silva Ferreira was born in Mozambique and he moved to Lisbon after joining Benfica as an 18-year-old from his local club, Sporting Clube de Lourenco Marques.
He quickly established himself at the Stadium of Light and was the talisman at Benfica during the club's glory years in the 1960s.
Known for his unpretentious and easy manner as well as his courage and ball skills, his popularity in Portugal was such that in 1964, when Italian clubs offered to buy Eusebio for sums that were astronomical for the time, the country's then-dictator, Antonio Salazar, decreed that the player was a "national treasure", meaning that he could not be sold abroad.
Eusebio helped the Eagles retain the European Cup in 1962 when they beat Real Madrid 5-3 - he scored the last two goals. And he also scored in two Wembley finals as the club lost to AC Milan in 1963 and Manchester United in 1968, while he played in the 1-0 defeat to Inter Milan in the 1965 final.
He was the 1965 European Footballer of the Year and finished as runners-up twice, in 1962 and 1966, and in 1968 was the first winner of the Golden Boot Award, as Europe's leading scorer, a feat he repeated five years later.
Eusebio was the Portuguese First Division's top scorer every season from 1964 to 1973, and he helped Benfica to 11 league titles and five national cup wins.
His last game for Benfica was in June 1975. He scored an astonishing 371 goals in his 301 games for the Lisbon club.
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.
After his retirement Eusebio worked at Benfica as an assistant coach and travelled widely with the Portuguese national side as a paid "soccer ambassador."
In 1998, a panel of 100 experts gathered by FIFA named him in its International Football Hall of Fame as one of the sport's top 10 all-time greats.
"Look, there are only two black people on the list: me and Pele," Eusebio said. "I regard that as a great responsibility because I am representing Africa and Portugal, my second homeland."
Eusebio is survived by his wife, Flora, two daughters and several grandchildren.
Benfica fans were offered the chance to pay their final respects to the player at the Estadio da Luz on Sunday.
"Eusebio's body will be brought to the stadium on Sunday and all fans will be able to say goodbye," a club spokesman said.