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Portugal prepares to bury Eusebio

LEGEND HONOURED: A statue of Eusebio outside Benfica's homeground in Lisbon (PA)

PORTUGUESE FOOTBALL hero Eusebio is to be honoured by thousands as his funeral takes place in capital city Lisbon.

The legendary forward, considered one of the best to have graced the game, died, aged 71, during the early hours of Sunday morning (Jan 5) following heart failure, and the world of football and Portugal is mourning the ex-Benfica striker’s death.

Three days of national mourning have been declared in Portugal as members of the public will be able to pay their respects to the World Cup great as Eusebio’s coffin is carried through the streets of Lisbon from the Luz stadium, before a Mass and burial takes place.

The former player, who amassed 733 goals in 745 games over his career and was top scorer at the 1966 World Cup, was suffering from heart and breathing problems during the past year and had been admitted to hospital several times.

Born in Mozambique when it was a Portuguese colony, Eusebio took the game by storm with his breath-taking acceleration and killer instinct in front of goal – he was the complete striker who almost never failed to find the back of the net.

Tributes from the leading lights in the sport have poured in for the late icon, who was nicknamed “black panther” in his playing days.

IN PRIME: Eusebio during the 1966 World Cup in England, where he helped Portugal to third place (PA)

Portuguese Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said: “Eusebio is one of the greatest footballers in the history of football. He's at this level - Eusebio, Charlton, Pele.

“For Portugal he means more than that. No colour, no clubs, no political sides.

“For Portuguese people Eusebio is Eusebio and for sure you will get some images over the next couple of days and I think you will understand what Eusebio means for our country.”

Writing on Twitter, Fifa president Sepp Blatter said: “Football has lost a legend”.

Portuguese president Anibal Cavaco Silva added: “Portugal has today lost one of its most beloved sons, Eusebio da Silva Ferreira. The country mourns his death.”

Benfica fans and mourners have lined Lisbon’s streets to see Eusebio’s coffin pass, while flowers, football shirts and messages of respect have been left at every possible space for the man who shined so brightly on the field.

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