Who is the greatest Portuguese football player of all time? Fans who are under 30 might naively and incorrectly say that the answer is Cristiano Ronaldo, or maybe even Luis Figo if you moved the age barrier to 35. As great as those two have been in their respective careers, those with a sense of history of the beautiful game will rightfully tell you that the answer is Eusebio.
On Sunday, it was reported that the man known as La Pantera Negra during his playing days passed away due to cardiac arrest at the age of 71. While Eusebio has had health issues and scares as of late, his passing is still a shock to the football world. While his passing will be mourned, it will also allow for his life, especially his time as a player, to be celebrated. It will also provide an opportunity to highlight why Eusebio is a legend in the sport.
The Mozambique-born Portugal international was known to be a technically gifted right-footed striker with top-class speed and athleticism. He scored 733 goals during his professional career as he was part of some great Benfica teams which won the European Cup, the predecessor to the Champions League back in 1962. He also helped Benfica reach the final on three other occasions.
While Eusebio did not get a chance to play in many international tournaments during his professional career, he certainly left his mark in the one which he did get to play in, the 1966 World Cup. In that World Cup, Eusebio was a catalyst for a Portugal team that finished third in the tournament while he finished as the top scorer of the tournament with nine goals.
Eusebio’s “lack of success” shows that the number of titles a player has won with their respective team over their career can be an unfair barometer to judge greatness. Eusebio’s career warrants his legendary status and one whom will be missed. He will and should continued to be celebrated as he is without a doubt the best Portuguese player of all time.