- Champion of the Champions League (1961/62)
- Winner of the Ballon d’Or (1965)
- World Cup Best Goalkeeper (1966)
- 3x Champions League Goalkeeper (1964/65, 1965/66 and 1967/68)
- A total of 779 games and 768 goals for the team and clubs
Conquering Europe was already the easier part. Born and raised in colonized Mozambique, the attacker had to drive through improvised gravel fields in his youth, playing with balls that consisted mainly of newspapers and socks. But Eusebio was a happy man because he could do what he loved most. He was a dignified, gentlemanly, even humble footballer that his mother could be proud of.
On the streets of the capital, Lourenco Marques, among friends, Eusebio was already a teenager. Grupo Desportivo, a subsidiary of Benfica in Lisbon, did not give it a chance. Thus, the first steps had to be taken in the local “system” of Sporting. He was 15 when he started organized football.
Everything could have been very different if Eusebio’s father, a railway worker, had not died of tetanus before the boy’s ninth birthday. Six years later, the attacker also caught the eye of the Juventus scouts, but the caring mother did not want to hear anything about the son’s departure 12,000 kilometers away. The interest of the Italians remained there.
Next, Eusebio was actually discovered by the Brazilians. Fortunately, Jose Carlos Bauer, head coach of Ferroviaria at the Sao Paulo club, who toured Mozambique, was a good friend of Benfica’s legendary head coach Bela Guttmann; fortunately that Sao Paulo, to whom Bauer was the first to offer the attacker, did not want to risk hiring an unknown African.
Guttmann, on the other hand, trusted his friend’s recommendation and flew straight to Mozambique, where he met both the player and his family. There was no need to convince Benfica’s fan Eusebiot, but his mother and brother did. In the end, the coach paid them a huge amount (~ € 2,000 in modern currency) in terms of both Mozambique and the era to take Eusebio to Portugal. However, no one tended to ask the athlete, whose system the goal scorer conditionally belonged to.
“Benfica agreed to offer me a contract immediately, but Sporting just wanted to be an apprentice,” Eusebio recalled the attitude of the clubs after the end of his career. They wanted me the same, but Benfica paid fairly for it.”
The times, of course, were different. Benfica feared that Sporting had not thrown a white towel around and that the attacker could simply be kidnapped. To conceal the transition, the code name Ruth Malosso was used in conversations and already secret documents, with which the attacker then boarded a plane bound for Lisbon in December 1960. Cunning, too, because Eusebio feared flying terribly.
At first glance, Benfica did not dare to accommodate his fresh addition in the capital, sending him to the southern Portuguese coast to the town of Lagos. Eusebio was locked in a hotel room guarded by three security guards for 12 days – so long it took the club to prepare the necessary documents. However, the 18-year-old Mozambican boy was not officially registered as a Benfica player until half a year later in May.
Was Eusebio worthy of such concealment and fascination? In short: yes. Benfica was at the absolute top of Europe at the time, having recently won the Champions League. In the final, the top striker Jose Aguas, who beat the Barcelona net, was thrilled with the new teammate.
“If it has to be me, then so be it, but someone has to make room on the pitch so he can play,” said Aguas, who wore the club’s captain’s band, after the first joint training at the Estadio da Luz. He had a fiery right.
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