Eusebio de Silva Ferreira

Full name: Eusébio da Silva Ferreira
Date of birth: 25/01/1942


Introduction

Eusebio de Silva Ferreira is recognised worldwide as one of the greatest African players ever to have lived. His fame is marked by the fact that he is known by anyone with an interest in football simply by his first name. He has two main nicknames, neither of which would be readily taken up by the press now. They are the Black Panther and the Black Pearl, these references to his race stemming from him being the first famous African player to represent Portugal. He is the most successful player to have come from the nation and is one of the best strikers the world has seen.


Early Career

Eusebio was born on January 25th 1942 in the then Portuguese territory Laurenco Marquez (now Mapatu in Mozambique). He began his career with the team Sporting Laurenco Marquez who were a feeder team for the Portuguese team Sporting Lisbon. He was spotted by scouts for Sporting Lisbon who brought him to Portugal in 1961. His talent had already been noted by other Portuguese teams, notably Benfica. The team’s coach Bela Guttmann had already flown to see Eusebio, having been tipped off about him by the Sao Paulo coach at the hairdressers.

Guttmann paid £7,500 to Sporting Lisbon for Eusebio and he made an instant impact with Lisbon’s rivals Benfica. This move was not seen as particularly sporting on the side of Benfica. He was reported to have been effectively kidnapped and taken to a small fishing village in the Algarve by Benfica while the deal was being negotiated.


Portuguese Football Career

It did not take long for Eusebio to make his mark in the Portuguese League. He scored a hat-trick in his début for the club and Benfica finished top in the league thanks to his impressive scoring record. In 1962, his second season at the club, he led the team to victory in the European Cup. He scored two goals in the final against Real Madrid, both of which he created with little help from his team mates.

In the first decade since Eusebio joined the club, Benfica won the league every year except 1962, 1968 and 1970. Eusebio was the club’s top scorer seven times in this period of glory. The team followed up their European Cup title win by coming third in the competition in 1963, 1965 and 1968. Their record in the Portuguese Cup reflected their league dominance with them winning the competition in 1962, 1964, 1969, 1970 and 1972.


National Career

Eusebio played for Portugal from the time he moved to the country. By the time of the 1966 World Cup he had established himself as the focus of the team’s strike force. It was in this tournament that he became recognised as a world-class player. It was the first time that Portugal had ever qualified for the competition, but they ploughed through their early matches with determination and style. In the quarter finals Portugal were trailing to North Korea by three goals to nil when Eusebio stepped up to win the match for Portugal. He scored four blinding goals and Portugal managed to stay in the competition with a 5-3 win.

The four goals that he scored in the previous match were sadly only matched by four disallowed goals against England in the semi-finals. It was a closely contested match but Eusebio scored the team’s only goal from the penalty spot in the 82nd minute. Eusebio left the pitch in tears but had made such an impact that he was immortalised in wax in Madame Tussauds. Portugal managed to beat the Soviet Union in the 3rd place play-offs and Eusebio finished as the top goal scorer in the tournament. This was to be the high point of Portugal’s career with Eusebio up front. He only played in the qualifying stages of the following two World Cups. He still remained the top goal scorer for the team until 2005.


Final Years

Having played for a few minor Portuguese teams, Eusebio moved across the Atlantic to play in the North American Soccer League. Like many players of his generation who made this transition, it proved to be a far less successful move than people had hoped. By the mid seventies Eusebio was receiving continual medical attention for his knee injuries. These marred his performance for the most part while he played for both the Toronto Metros and Las Vegas Quiksilver. In 1976 he scored in the league final for the Metros, helping them to a 3-0 win. After a brief spell with a Mexican team, Eusebio moved to the second division New Jersey’s Americans. It was a sad end to his career with him playing few matches and scoring even fewer goals before his eventual retirement in 1978.


Achievements


Personal

  • European Footballer of the Year 1965
  • Golden Boot in 1966 World Cup
  • Golden Boot in European Football, 1968 and 1973
  • 319 goals in 313 games in Portuguese League
  • 727 goals in 715 games for Benfica
  • 6 Times Top Scorer in Portuguese League
  • Top Goal Scorer for Benfica for fifteen years
  • All Time Top Goal Scorer for Benfica
  • 46 goals in European Competitions


Team Titles

  • European Cup 1962
  • Portuguese Cup 1962, 1964, 1969, 1970, 1972
  • Portuguese League Championships Ten Times


Playing Style

Eusebio’s strengths came in many forms. He had an extremely accurate and powerful right footed shot. He was able to penetrate defensive lines with apparent ease, often without the support of his own midfield players. Unlike many players of his time, he did not rely on perfect passes to put him in position. He possessed great close dribbling skills which allowed him to go off alone and make attempts at goal.

Described as a one man attack, he was a powerful runner who combined confidence and speed to make space for himself. He also managed to make shots with pinpoint accuracy from tight angles and when under pressure from defenders. It was perhaps this aggressive style that put so much demand on his knees leading to an early retirement resulting from a knee injury. Eusebio’s preference for his right foot is said to stem from him only owning a right footed boot as a child.


Player Statistics

Senior Club and National Team Statistics
Period Team Appearances (Goals)
1957 – 1960 Sporting Lourenço Marques Unknown (?)
1960 – 1975 Benfica 301 (317)
1975 Rhode Island Oceaneers Unknown (?)
1975 Boston Minutemen 7 (2)
1975 – 1976 Monterrey 10 (1)
1976 – 1977 Beira-Mar 12 (3)
1976 Toronto Metros-Croatia 25 (18)
1977 Las Vegas Quicksilver 17 (2)
1977 – 1978 New Jersey Americans Unknown (?)
1977 – 1978 União Tomar Unknown (?)
1961 – 1973 Portugal 64 (41)


Player Achievements

Awards and Honours
Award Year(s)
European Footballer of the Year 1965
FIFA World Player of the Year 1965, 1966
Golden Boot 1968, 1973
Portuguese Player of the Year 1970, 1973
Portuguese Golden Ball (Career) 1991