Raymond Kopa is number 22 in 90min's Top 50 Greatest Footballers of All Time series
Real Madrid have had a lot of exceedingly talented football players.
But Real Madrid have only had one Raymond Kopa.
Not often does a player make such a considerable impact at a club in such a short spell, but that was Kopa's remit when he moved to Spain. However, he didn't just meet expectations in the Spanish capital, he surpassed them.
With club and individual honours galore, he etched his name into, not only the club's history, but into footballing history forever. Kopa was truly one of a kind.
Here are some of his career highlights.
First League Title With Reims
Raymond Kopa, formerly of Stade de Reims, Real Madrid and France has passed away— The League Magazine (@Theleaguemag) March 3, 2017
Nowadays if you ask someone how Reims are getting on, you'll most likely be met with a shrug of the shoulder or a response in the vein of 'Ermm, doing OK in Ligue 1?'.
Well, it is in fact the latter of those statements which is true, but cast your mind back to the 50s and 60s and we're talking about one of Europe's most formidable sides. They boasted some magnificent talent during their prime, none more so than Kopa.
The French magician propelled the club into previously unknown heights during his first spell there, garnering the attention of clubs across the continent with consistently dizzying displays.
En route to a first Ligue 1 title, he bagged 13 league goals in a superb individual campaign at the age of just 22. It was Kopa's first taste of silverware but, needless to say, not his last.
Becoming the First Frenchman to Lift the European Cup
Raymond Kopa with Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas at Real Madrid (1959) pic.twitter.com/sAQ6SWjwJw— OldFootballPhotos (@OldFootball11) May 28, 2017
It was a controversial departure from Reims that brought him to the Spanish capital, agreeing to join the club at the start of the 1956/57 season, three weeks before his current side were to face off against Madrid in the European Cup final.
Los Blancos secured the crown on that occasion, and it was to be the start of a memorable relationship with the competition during his three-year stay in Madrid.
Kopa was as silky as footballers came. His majesty and elegance on the ball was heightened in the club's famous white strip, who took advantage his ability to enhance the club's playing style and extract the best out of each player in the squad.
His talents didn't go unrewarded, as he was integral and leading Madrid to the European Cup final in his debut season - where they overcame Fiorentina 2-0. In doing so, Kopa became the first player from his nation to secure the prestigious European title. But, once again, it wasn't to be his last.
Scooping the Ballon d'Or
Real Madrid's Ballon D'Or winners Raymond Kopa, Luis Figo, Ronaldo Nazario & Zizou alongside Cristiano.— 101 Great Goals (@101greatgoals) January 7, 2017
And Michael Owen
You don't elevate a club of Madrid's stature into the most formidable force in Europe without getting some recognition. And no, I'm not talking about a pat on the back or Player of the Month award. What Kopa deserved was more, and what Kopa received, was the best of all.
It's hard to ignore the fact that Kopa won another European Cup the following season - as well as his second successive La Liga crown - but his awarding of the Ballon d'Or was precisely what his performances merited.
The two previous years he'd finished in third place, so it wasn't as if the decision came out of the blue. Yet, what Kopa did was lift his game to astronomic levels, which itself improved the players around him. He was someone who elevated all those whom he played with, and France Football had clearly noticed this.
As he got better, so did Madrid.
Final European Cup Triumph
Two years ago Real Madrid lost one of its greatest legends: Raymond Kopa. The player was key to Real Madrid side who won the first European Cups. The Frenchman played between 1956 & 1959 & formed part of one of the greatest front lines ever w/ Rial, Puskas, Gento, & Di Stéfano. pic.twitter.com/1FtPXOvs3h— RMadridHome (@RMadridHome_) March 3, 2019
Is it genuinely feasible to have a more prolific three-year spell with a club? What more other than a Ballon d'Or, three European Cup's, two La Liga titles and a Latin Cup could he do?
Kopa was unstoppable throughout his time in Madrid, notching impressive goal tallies for someone in his position, and registering countless assists.
So it was no wonder that this Madrid war machine matched their exploits of the season before by securing Kopa's third successive - and the club's fourth - European Cup with victory over former club Reims (yes, really) in the final.
He would never play on this stage again, but he needn't have really.
Kopa didn't just play in the European Cup, he completed it.
90min's 'Top 50 Greatest Footballers of All Time' can be found here.
Number 50: Luka Modric
Number 49: John Charles
Number 48: Hugo Sanchez
Number 47: Jairzinho
Number 46: Omar Sivori
Number 45: Paolo Rossi
Number 44: Paul Breitner
Number 43: George Weah
Number 42: Kaka
Number 41: Lev Yashin
Number 40: Gunnar Nordahl
Number 39: Kevin Keegan
Number 38: Hristo Stoichkov
Number 37: Gianluigi Buffon
Number 36: Johan Neeskens
Number 35: Xavi Hernandez
Number 34: Luis Suarez
Number 33: Karl-Heinz Rummenigge
Number 32: Andres Iniesta
Number 31: Rivelino
Number 30: Bobby Moore
Number 29: Socrates
Number 28: Sandor Kocsis
Number 27: Lothar Matthaus
Number 26: Ronaldinho
Number 25: Ruud Gullit
Number 24: Bobby Charlton
Number 23: Giuseppe Meazza