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Madrid in mourning after Lesmes dies

Real Madrid CF are mourning a player "who left a big mark on the club" following the death of five-time European Champion Clubs' Cup winner Rafael Lesmes aged 85.

Rafael Lesmes (centre) lines up with Madrid ahead of the 1957 European Champion Clubs' Cup final
Rafael Lesmes (centre) lines up with Madrid ahead of the 1957 European Champion Clubs' Cup final ©Getty Images

Former Real Madrid CF left-back Rafael Lesmes, who won five European Champion Clubs' Cups and four Spanish titles with the club from 1952–60, has died at the age of 85.

An official statement from Real Madrid reflected on the death of a player "who left a big mark on the club". Lesmes played alongside Alfredo Di Stéfano, Francisco Gento, Ferenc Puskás and José María Zárraga in the Madrid side that dominated the early years of European club football, winning the first five editions of UEFA's top club competition.

Born in Ceuta, he started his career with local team Club Atlético Tetuán before making his name at Real Valladolid CF. Lesmes eventually left for Madrid in 1952, playing more than 200 times for that hugely successful Merengues side – and being capped once by Spain – before returning to end his playing days with Valladolid. Following his retirement in 1962, he worked as a scout with Madrid for a time.

"The 1950s was the decade that made Real Madrid a great club," Lesmes said in 2010. "It was made great in the stadium where 130,000 people would come to watch us play – it was made great on the training ground and in the sports hall. One day, when walking towards our training pitches, [former club president] Santiago Bernabéu said to me: 'Rafa, now I can die in peace.' When the fans came to see us play, they enjoyed something beautiful. We were a team that fought, a complete team – it was all for one back then."