Eusebio is number 20 in 90min's Top 50 Greatest Footballers of All Time series


Eusebio had everything. He was blessed with explosive speed and strength, but he balanced this sheer athleticism with delicate quick feet. He'd beat you for pace and strength, and then skill too, just for good measure. 


But what set Eusebio apart was his eye for goal. In 440 competitive games for Benfica, he scored a quite frankly ridiculous 473 goals. He was a little bit more than your 20-goal a season man.


Almost as extraordinary as Eusebio's goalscoring record was the manner in which his professional career unfolded in the first place.

He grew up in the then Portuguese colony of Mozambique, and spent his teenage years playing for Sporting Clube de Lourenço Marques, a feeder club of Sporting CP.


In Eusebio's home town of Lourenço Marques, word spread about the electric youngster with the magical feet. He was watched by ex-Brazil player Jose Carlos Bauer, who gave a glowing assessment of the youngster while chatting to Benfica coach Béla Guttmann in a barbershop in Lisbon.


Guttmann got himself on the first plane to Mozambique in order to witness this prodigy in the flesh. He persuaded Eusebio to sign for Benfica, right under the noses of rivals Sporting. When he arrived in Portugal, Eusebio was forced to hide out in a remote fishing village as Benfica feared their rivals were plotting a kidnap operation.


Eusebio had to wait five months for his Benfica debut, such was the strength of their side in the 60s. At an invitational tournament in France in the summer of 1961, the Portuguese club caught a glimpse of just what a player they had on their hands.


"He is immortal"

Jose Mourinho


Losing 4-0 in the final to Pele's Santos, Benfica brought on 19-year-old Eusebio in the second half. He scored a 17-minute hat trick and won his side a penalty.


Victory was ultimately Santos', but the front and back pages were all Eusebio's.


The following year, Eusebio's first season in professional football, Benfica stormed to European glory for the second year on the trot. They beat a fabulous Real Madrid in the final, with Alfredo de Stefano and Ferenc Puskas lining up for Los Blancos.


Puskas scored a hat trick, but Eusebio grabbed a brace as Benfica ran out 5-3 winners. The pair swapped shirts at full time, football's present great passing the baton over to football's future.

During his time at Benfica, Eusebio helped the side to 11 Primeira Liga titles in 15 years, with Eusebio winning the 1965 European footballer of the year in the process.


Despite enjoying a decade and a half of incredible domestic success, it is Eusebio's remarkable performances at one World Cup that have immortalised him in football history.


Portugal headed to England for the 1966 World Cup with Eusebio at the peak of his powers. The forward was the star of the tournament, winning the Golden Boot as he hit nine goals in just five matches.

Eusebio scored two goals as Portugal beat Pele's Brazil 3-1 in the group stages - one of which was a stunning volley from the tightest of angles. North Korea awaited in the quarter-finals. What unfolded is one of the greatest games in World Cup football, with Eusebio at its very core.


The underdogs raced into a 3-0 lead, but Portugal's talisman was on hand to bring his country back from the brink.


Eusebio scored four times to complete a remarkable comeback, as Portugal booked their place in the last four.


Their semi-final against host England was conveniently moved from Goodison Park - the scene of Portugal's North Korea triumph - to Wembley by the English authorities. Portugal lost 2-1, with Eusebio inconsolable at full time. 

Eusebio

For a serial winner, Eusebio lost very well too. In the 1968 European Cup final against Manchester United, the striker was bearing down on goal in the dying minutes, with the two sides inseparable. He was presented with a golden opportunity to win the game, but fired the ball straight at United goalkeeper Alex Stepney. 


Despite the stakes, pressures and magnitude of the occasion, he put his arm around Stepney and applauded him on his save. 


Eusebio was exceptional. He was the first truly great African footballer, treading the path from poverty to the very top of the game that so many others would follow. 


He played with purity and flair and epitomised everything that makes the beautiful game so beautiful. 


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

Number 22: Raymond Kopa

Number 21: ​Romario