Farewell, Black Panther
FOOTBALL said goodbye to one of its most beloved players yesterday, when former Portugal star Eusebio died from a heart attack at the age of 71.
The death of the charismatic striker, who was idolised throughout the Portuguese-speaking world and considered one of the sport's greatest players, was confirmed by state television and the country's sports dailies.
He had been in poor health for some time and was hospitalised during Euro 2012 after suffering a heart scare in Poland.
Eusebio, whose full name was Eusebio da Silva Ferreira, was European Footballer of the Year in 1965, but won global acclaim a year later at the World Cup in England, where his nine goals helped Portugal reach the semi-finals. He won 64 caps and scored 41 goals for Portugal, records that stood for almost two decades before being broken by Portugal's current top striker, Cristiano Ronaldo, last year.
Nicknamed the Black Panther, Eusebio was a European Cup winner with Benfica in 1962 and played in three other finals, including the loss to Manchester United at Wembley in 1968.
"He was one of the great figures of Portugal. I think he is immortal," Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho told state broadcaster RTP. "He was not only a great inspiration, but also an important figure in upholding the values, principles and feelings of football, even after finishing his career."
Eusebio helped Benfica to 11 Portuguese titles and later served as an ambassador for the club. He scored more than 300 league goals for the Lisbon outfit.
Said former Benfica and Portugal teammate Toni: "There were many princes in football, but few kings. He is in the gallery of the greats. He was gifted both physically and technically; he was like a Greek statue."
Ronaldo wrote on Twitter: "Always eternal, Eusebio, rest in peace."