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Tributes paid to football's 'Black Panther' Eusebio

GREAT: Eusebio and (inset) in action for BenficaONE 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 Lisbon side Benfica, winning 11 league titles and a European Cup during a 15-year spell there. He also won two Golden Boot awards as Europe's leading goal scorer.

He bagged 41 goals in 64 appearances for Portugal.

A Benfica spokesman said: "We have just received confirmation of the death of Eusebio. It's a very sad day for all of us."

The club was unable to confirm details of Eusebio's death, but reports in Portugal say he died of a heart attack early yesterday.

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 were offered the chance to pay their final respects to the player at the Estadio da Luz last evening.

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

Eusebio was a torment to defenders because of his speed and technique. He scored 317 goals in 301 appearances for Benfica 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 that made him a global star.

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

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