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Nov 28, 2010

Raymond Kopa

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Raymond Kopa (born Kopaszewski, on October 13, 1931 in Nœux-les-Mines, Pas-de-Calais), is a former French football striker, integral to the French national team of the 1950s. He was a great and versatile playmaker, who also scored plenty of goals.

Born into a family of Polish immigrants, Kopa began his professional career at the age of 17 with SCO Angers in France's second level, and was transferred two years later to Stade de Reims, with whom he won French championships in 1953 and 1955. He helped Reims reach the first European Cup final in 1956, which the team lost to Alfredo Di Stéfano's Real Madrid, 4-3.

Kopa was transferred to Real Madrid the subsequent season, where he was soon joined by Ferenc Puskás. At Real Madrid, Kopa won the Spanish league in 1957 and 1958. Kopa also became the first French player to win the European Cup when Madrid defeated Fiorentina 2-0 in the 1957 final. He would go on to be European champion again in 1958 and 1959, the last against former side Stade de Reims, where Just Fontaine played.

In the 1959-60 season, Kopa returned to France to finish his career with Reims, where he won further Championnats in 1960 and 1962. In total, he scored 75 goals in 346 matches in France's top flight, and was given the Ballon d'or by France Football in 1958.

With the France national football team, Kopa scored 18 goals in 45 games between 1952 and 1962. He played in the 1958 FIFA World Cup in Sweden, where the French team finished third, losing to the Brazilian team. He was also voted as the 1958 Best Player of the Tournament and retroactively as the 1954 Best Young Player of the Tournament, being the only footballer to receive both honours.

Kopa was named by Pelé as one of the top 125 greatest living footballers in March 2004.