European football has lost two legendary figures in the space of two days.
Following the sad news that Celtic stalwart Tommy Gemmell, a key member of the Lisbon Lions, died yesterday, it was announced earlier today that the great Raymond Kopa has passed away at the age of 85.
Kopa is a footballing monument in France, having been the first Frenchman to win the Ballon d’Or and the first Frenchman to lift the European Cup, a feat he repeated three times during the three seasons he spent as part of Real Madrid’s celestial mid-to-late 1950s side – Di Stefano, Puskas, Gento, etc.
In his homeland, he was and will forever be synonymous with the iconic Riems team of the early 50s, with whom he won the Ligue 1 (or Division 1, as it was then) title four times across two separate stints, also lifting the Latin Cup and reaching a European Cup final in 1956.
He was also a fixture of the national team, winning 45 caps, scoring 18 goals and playing his way into the FIFA All-Star Team for the 1958 World Cup, at which Les Bleus finished third.
Kopa is also the only player outside of the Lionel Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo axis to finish in the top three of the Ballon d’Or ballot for four consecutive years – 1956, ’57, ’58 and ’59.
Oh, and he was also the first footballer ever to receive France’s highest accolade of civil merit, the Legion d’honneur, in 1970.
Pretty bloody magnifique.
Kopa goes through his paces in training match before France’s game against Germany, 1952
Kopa and his France teammates wait to board their plane to Dublin at Orly airport ahead of a match against Ireland, 1953
Kopa poses for a France photocall, 1954
Kopa in action for the French army against their British counterparts, 1955
As wife Christine (left) looks on, Kopa is presented for an award for being the ‘most elegant sportsman in France’ by actress Jeanne Moreau (right), 1955
Kopa of Reims shakes hands with De Stefano of Real Madrid before the 1956 European Cup final
Kopa arrives at the airport to leave France after signing for Real Madrid, 1956
Kopa and Di Stefano again, this time after winning the 1957 European Cup together at Real Madrid
Kopa entertains fans during a training camp with France, 1958
Kopa scores against Germany as France win the third-place playoff at the 1958 World Cup
Real Madrid’s legendary attack of Kopa, Hector Rial, Alfredo di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas and Francisco Gento, circa 1958
Real Madrid president Santiago Bernabeu (second left) chats with Kopa, Di Stefano and Gento at a celebration party after Real had won the European Cup for the fourth consecutive season, 1959
Kopa would never play for Real again, leaving to re-join Reims in the close season.
Kopa and Just Fontaine demonstrate their mastery of the football at a France training session, 1959
Kopa (alongside Fontaine) poses with the special prize he received from the FFF for services to the French national team, 1959
Les Bleus (with Kopa in the centre) warm up for a friendly against Portugal, 1959
The Stade Reims team of 1959 (Kopa front and centre, with the ball)
Kopa meets Pele in 1960
Four years after retiring, Kopa returns to the Stade Auguste Delaune in Reims for a photoshoot, 1972
A star-studded group of famous footballing figures assemble on the pitch ahead of the 1975 European Cup final between Leeds United and Bayern Munich.
Among the faces, Matt Busby, Miguel Munoz, Francisco Gento, Raymond Kopa, Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas.
Raymond Kopa RIP (1931-2017)