Photo: Eusebio da Silva Ferreira
Eusebio da Silva Ferreira, considered in Portugal to be the best soccer player of all time, died Sunday of cardiorespiratory failure, Benfica, the club for which he played during the bulk of his career, said. He was 71.
Eusebio, known as the “Black Panther,” had suffered from assorted health problems since the summer of 2012, when he suffered a stroke while he was accompanying the Portuguese team to the Eurocup in Poland.
The soccer player, born in 1942 in the old Portuguese colony of Mozambique, became the key symbol of Portuguese soccer, and he was instrumental in taking the national team to third place in the 1966 World Cup in England, its highest achievement. During the competition he was the top goal-scorer with nine tallies.
He played for Benfica for 15 years, signing with the club in 1960, and with a number of other teams for short stints after that until he retired in 1979.
During the course of his career, he won 12 Primeira Liga titles, five Portuguese Cup titles and the European Cup in 1961-1962, when Portugal defeated Real Madrid 5-3 in the final in Amsterdam.
He was also awarded the Ballon d’Or award by the French magazine France Football in 1965 and was runner-up for the prize in 1962 and 1966.
After his retirement, Eusebio participated in many public events, continued to act as a representative and symbol of Benfica and served as the team’s ambassador at tournaments abroad.