French footballing great Raymond Kopa passed away at 85

Legendary France, Reims and Real Madrid footballer, Raymond Kopa has passed away at the age of 85.

Kopa will be remembered as one of the foremost footballers of the 1950s. A great playmaker as well as a prolific goalscorer, he was part of the legendary Real Madrid team of the 1950s, winning three European Cups. He was a losing finalist with Stade de Reims in the inaugural edition of the European Champion Clubs’ Cup in 1956, before transferring to Real Madrid, with whom he won the 1957, 1958 and 1959 editions of Europe’s top club competition.

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With the French national team, he scored 18 goals in 45 appearances, and reached the semi-finals of the 1958 FIFA World Cup.

Usually playing as an advanced playmaker, Kopa was renowned for his dribbling abilities. Just Fontaine, his former Reims and France team-mate once remarked, “He was a dribbler who never passed until he was done dribbling, and I was always there when he passed it.” He was adept at creating chances for his fellow players, often taking defenders out of the game with his exceptional dribbling skills. He was also a regular goalscorer for both club and country.

First French footballer to win the Ballon d’Or

In 1958, following a stellar season where he won the league and European Cup double with Real Madrid, and reached the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup with France, he became the first Frenchman to win the Ballon d’Or.

Titles, Honours and Legacy

With Real Madrid, Raymond Kopa won the European championships on 3 occasions – 1957, 1958 and 1959. He also won 2 Spanish league titles with the Spanish giants. With Stade de Reims, Kopa won 4 French league titles.

On an individual front, Kopa won the 1958 Ballon d’Or, becoming the first French footballer to do so. This followed 2 third place finishes in 1956 and 1957, and was followed by a runners-up finish in 1959.

In 1996, he was selected in World Soccer’s 100 Greatest Footballers of All Time . In 2004, he was also named in the FIFA 100, a list of the 125 greatest living footballers created by Pelé. He became the first football player to receive the Légion d’honneur, the highest French order for military and civil merits, in 1970.

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