Real Madrid and France great Raymond Kopa dies, aged 85

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The playmaker won the Ballon d'Or in 1958 as part of the side that dominated the early days of continental football

French footballing legend Raymond Kopa has died, aged 85.

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Kopa was one of the stars of the Real Madrid side that dominated European football in the late 1950s, and it was during his time at Santiago Bernabeu that he won three European Cups and also claimed the Ballon d’Or in 1958.

The son of Polish immigrants, he was born Raymond Kopaszewski in the north east of France, but his surname was shorted during his school years.

An attacker, he started his football career with Angers, where he lived until his death, before moving on to Reims, where he would spend the bulk of his playing life. Indeed, he turned out for the Champagne outfit from 1951 until 1967, with the exception of a three-season sabbatical in Madrid.

During his career, he won four domestic French titles and was also European Cup runner up with Reims in 1956. In Spain, he was part of the side that won two Primera Division titles, monopolised the early years of continental football and even attained the game’s highest individual honour at that time.

He played 45 times for France between 1952 and 1962, scoring 18 goals and was one of the outstanding figures at the 1958 World Cup, where he was eclipsed arguably only by 13-goal team-mate Just Fontaine and Brazil’s teenage sensation Pele. 

Kopa was also the first footballer ever to receive the French state’s highest accolade, the Legion d’honneur, in 1970.

France Football Federation president Noel Le Graet said via a statement: "The death of Raymond Kopa plunges the Federation into immense sadness.

"His is a terrible loss for French football. He was a symbol and a front runner. His career with his clubs as well as with France was exceptional.

"Everyone will remember his exploits that will remain unmatched. He was a player and a man of class. I extend my deepest condolences to his family and loved ones."

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