Former Real Madrid and France playmaker Raymond Kopa has died at the age of 85, Reims, the French club where he was honorary president have confirmed.
Kopa, who won three European Cups alongside the likes of Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo Di Stefano in the 1950s, had been hospitalised in the French town of Angers since Sunday.
Le Courrier de l’Ouest reported on Friday that Kopa passed away earlier that same morning at 8:00 a.m. CET.
The first French winner of the Ballon d’Or in 1958 after being named the best player of that year’s World Cup, Kopa was born in northern France in October 1931, the son of Polish immigrants who had left their native land to work in French mines.
After working as a miner himself, and losing two fingers while doing so, Kopa — whose surname was shortened from its original form, Kopaszewski — began his football career at Angers before forging his reputation during five seasons at Reims.
Two French titles and a European Cup runners-up medal from the competition’s first-ever final in 1956 followed, and it was Kopa’s display in an historic 4-3 win for the Spanish club at the Parc des Princes in Paris that helped earn him a summer move to Madrid.
Nicknamed ‘Kopita’ by Madrid fans due to his diminutive stature, he helped Los Blancos to two La Liga titles and three successive European Cups between 1957 and 1959, the latter won against his former club. He then returned to Reims for a further eight seasons, winning two more French titles, before retiring aged 35. He scored 18 times in 45 games for France.