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Goalkeeping idol Vladimir Beara mourned

"Football will never forget the one and only Vladimir Beara," said Davor Šuker following the death of the great Yugoslavia goalkeeper, known as the 'Ballerina with the Iron Fists'.

Vladimir Beara in training with Yugoslavia in the 1950s
Vladimir Beara in training with Yugoslavia in the 1950s ©Getty Images

Fans in the former Yugoslavia are in mourning following the death on Sunday of goalkeeper Vladimir Beara, with the 85-year-old having been regarded as one of the greatest keepers of his age.

Croatian Football Federation (HNS) president Davor Šuker led the tributes, saying of Beara: "Croatian and world football has lost a real legend. The top goalkeepers and experts in the world talked about Beara as the best, which is a measure of the mark he left between the posts. Beara will remain in every fan's mind as a remarkable goalkeeper who continued to give more to football as a coach after retiring. Croatian football will never forget the one and only Vladimir Beara."

At HNK Hajduk Split, Beara won three domestic championships in Yugoslavia between 1947 and 1955 before moving to Belgrade side FK Crvena zvezda, where he lifted four more titles and two Yugoslav Cups. He was considered one of the outstanding goalkeepers of his day, with Soviet Union counterpart Lev Yashin reportedly saying after he received the Ballon d'Or in 1963 that it was Beara, not him, who was Europe's supreme custodian.

Beara's agility earned him some colourful nicknames, including 'Rubber Man' and 'Ballerina with the Iron Fists'. Capped 59 times between 1950 and 1959, he represented Yugoslavia at three FIFA World Cups and claimed a silver medal at the 1952 Olympics, saving a Ferenc Puskás penalty in the final. Retiring following a spell in Germany, he coached a number of sides – not least the Cameroon national team – but never forgot his first love.

"Hajduk were everything to me," he said. "This is the club I sleep and wake up with in the morning. Hajduk are my biggest love."