Portuguese and Mozambican football legend Eusebio has died three just weeks before he was due to celebrate his 72nd birthday.
Eusébio, the outstanding figure of Portuguese football before the emergence of Cristiano Ronaldo, had died aged 71.
The Portuguese sports daily A’Bola said Eusébio had died of a cardiac arrest in the early hours of Sunday morning, Reuters reported.
Eusébio, born in Mozambique, then a Portuguese colony, was the top scorer at the World Cup finals in 1966, where he led his country to the semi-final, which they lost 2-1 to England.
Ronaldo immediately tweeted a picture of him and Eusebio paying tribute to the man who paved the way for several African players to play in Europe.
Eusébio won 64 caps for Portugal and the European Cup with Benfica in 1962, but was also feted as black Africa’s first international football star.
In a Guardian interview before the first World Cup on African soil in 2010, he said he learnt to play with “socks or newspaper rolled into a ball”.
The former Benfica star was the top scorer in the 1966 World Cup in England, when he helped Portugal to the semi-finals and a third-place finish.
The forward scored an incredible 473 goals in 440 matches for Benfica, the Portuguese giants with whom he spent most of his career and won the European Cup in 1962.
He also scored 41 goals in 64 appearances for the Portugal national team, helping them to third place in the 1966 World Cup in England – a tournament in which he was top goalscorer with nine goals.
He memorably scored four goals in the 5-3 quarter-final win over North Korea at Goodison Park.
Nicknamed the Black Panther, Eusebio da Silva Ferreira was famed for his speed, technique and a fearsome right-foot shot that earned him 733 goals in 745 competitive matches in his career.
He is widely considered to be one of the best players to ever grace a football pitch.
Eusebio won the Ballon d’Or in 1965 and was runner-up in 1962 and 1966.
At Benfica, he helped them to 11 Portuguese League titles and five Cups, as well as establishing them as a major European force.
In 1962, he scored twice in a remarkable 5-3 win over the all-conquering Real Madrid in the final in Amsterdam.
However, his three other appearances in the European Cup final ended in defeat.
In 1963, he scored but Benfica lost 2-1 to AC Milan at Wembley; in 1965, Internazionale beat them 1-0 in the San Siro; and in 1968, Matt Busby’s Manchester United won 4-1 in extra time at Wembley.