French football legend Raymond Kopa dies aged 85

French footballer Raymond Kopa has died at the age of 85 following a long illness. Picture: AFP/Getty

French footballer Raymond Kopa has died at the age of 85 following a long illness. Picture: AFP/Getty

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Former Ballon d’Or winner Raymond Kopa, who won three consecutive European Cups with Real Madrid in the 1950s, has died at the age of 85.

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Considered as one of France’s greatest footballers, the attacking midfielder enjoyed a decorated career which saw him win two league titles with Reims and two Spanish league titles in a dominant three-year spell at Madrid, before returning to Reims to finish his 18-year playing career.

Kopa won the Ballon d’Or in 1958, finishing ahead of Germany’s Helmut Rahn and fellow countryman Just Fontaine after finishing third in the first two years of the award.

Noel Le Graet, the president of the French football federation said in a statement: “The passing of Raymond Kopa plunges the federation into immense sadness. It’s a terrible loss for French football. Raymond Kopa is among the legends.

“He was a symbolic player and a fore0runner. His career with his clubs, as with the France team, was exceptional.

“Everyone has and will keep in their memory his exploits which will remain unequalled. He was a player and a man of unique class. I send my most sincere condolences to his family and friends.”

Kopa played against Real for Reims in the inaugural European Cup final in 1956 and joined the Spanish giants that summer. He then played in three further finals for Los Blancos, with the last of them coming against Reims in 1959.

He returned to the French club at the end of the season and remained with them until his retirement in 1967.

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