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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Portugal icon Eusebio dies at 71

Legendary Portugal striker Eusebio has died at the age of 71. 

• Brassell: Remembering La Pantera Negra
• Brewin: Eusebio the Portuguese pioneer
• Moonda: Eusebio's Mozambique roots
Gallery: His life in pictures Photo Gallery

Considered to be one of the greatest players of all-time, Eusebio was the top goalscorer at the 1966 World Cup for Portugal, scoring nine goals as they finished in third place.

The former forward had been admitted to hospital a number of times over the past 12 months as he battled heart and respiratory problems. On Sunday, it was confirmed he had died of cardiac arrest.

Eusebio, left, can be considered the ultimate big-game player for the mere fact that he scored more often than not.
Eusebio top-scored at the 1966 World Cup, one of many achievements over a 22-year career

Born in the then-Portuguese colony of Mozambique, Eusebio moved to Europe and made his name with Benfica, winning the 1962 European Cup and being named European Footballer of the Year three years later in 1965.

Continental glory did not always prove so easy to come by, however, and his Benfica side -- expected to dominate Europe in the 1960s -- tasted European Cup final heartache in 1963, 1965 and 1968.

Nonetheless, Eusebio cemented his reputation as one of the world’s most fearsome attacking talents, with his searing pace and mazy dribbling proving the scourge of some of the game’s best defenders. He netted a remarkable 733 times in 745 professional games.

Real Madrid star and current Portuguese football icon Cristiano Ronaldo led the tributes to Eusebio on Twitter.

 

Former winger Luis Figo added his voice, tweeting:  "The king! Great loss for all of us! The greatest!"

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho also echoed the sentiments, saying of his compatriot:" I think he is immortal. We all know what he meant for football and especially for Portuguese football. He was not only a great inspiration but also an important figure in upholding the values, principles and feelings of football."

And the Portuguese Football Federation paid homage to Eusebio on its official website, saying: "Portugal is in mourning. He died in the early hours of Sunday, a victim of cardiac arrest, Eusébio da Silva Ferreira, the King, King of Magriços 1966 and eternal symbol of the country, the Seleção and SL Benfica."

 

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