Soccer great Eusebio dies aged 71

This Is Lancashire: Former Benfica and Portugal star Eusebio has died aged 71 Former Benfica and Portugal star Eusebio has died aged 71

One of the world's all-time football greats, the Portugal and Benfica forward Eusebio, has died at the age of 71, his former club confirmed.

Nicknamed the Black Panther, Eusebio was regarded as one of the best players ever and helped Portugal to third place at the 1966 World Cup, finishing as top scorer in that tournament with nine goals.

The Mozambique-born striker made his name at club level with Benfica, winning 11 league titles and one European Cup during a 15-year spell there. He also won two Golden Boot awards as Europe's leading goalscorer.

He notched 41 goals in 64 appearances for Portugal.

A spokesman for Benfica told Press Association Sport: "We have just received confirmation of the death of Eusebio.

"It's a very sad day for all of us."

The club were unable to confirm details of Eusebio's death, but reports in Portugal say he died of a heart attack in the early hours of Sunday morning.

He had been in poor health for some time and was taken to hospital during Euro 2012 after suffering a heart scare in Poland.

Benfica fans will now be offered the chance to pay their final respects to the player at the Estadio da Luz later on Sunday.

"Eusebio's body will be brought to the stadium later today and all fans will be able to say goodbye," the spokesman said.

Eusebio was a torment to defenders because of his speed and technique, and scored an astonishing 317 goals in 301 appearances for Benfica, where he was a player between 1960 and 1975.

He 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.

But it was his achievements with Benfica which made him a global star, with five national cups and a European Cup on top of his list of league titles.

Despite his prolific scoring record and international renown, his only appearance at a World Cup finals was in 1966 in England, where Portugal were knocked out in the semi-finals by the hosts.

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