SL Benfica hero Mário Coluna, a former Portugal midfielder and two-time European Champion Clubs' Cup winner known as 'Sacred Monster', has died at the age of 78.
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Mário Coluna, the former Portugal midfielder and two-time European Champion Clubs' Cup winner with SL Benfica, has died at the age of 78.
Known by supporters in Lisbon as 'Monstro Sagrado' (Sacred Monster), in 17 seasons with the Eagles Coluna won ten Portuguese Liga titles, six Portuguese Cups and the European Cup in 1960/61 and 1961/62. He left in 1970 to join Olympique Lyonnais, before returning to Portugal two years later and ending his career at Sport Clube Estrela de Portalegre.
"While he was alive, Coluna won not only the appreciation of all who had the privilege of seeing him play, but also the respect of those who, not having seen him, heard him lauded as one of the greatest talents of his generation," Benfica president Luís Filipe Vieira said on the club's website. "He was someone with a unique life, whose legacy will prevail long after his death."
Coluna was born in 1935 in Inhaca, Mozambique, then a Portuguese colony. After starting his playing days with Desportivo de Lourenço Marques in his homeland, he moved to Benfica in 1954 and went on to play 677 matches for the side, captaining them for almost half of that period.
Coluna represented Portugal 57 times, scoring eight goals, and skippered them to third place at the 1966 FIFA World Cup. After hanging up his boots in 1972, he served as president of the Mozambique Football Association (FMF) and as national sports minister.
He passed away in Maputo, Mozambique, on Tuesday following a severe pulmonary infection. His death comes less than two months after that of another Benfica and Portugal hero: Eusébio.