PARIS Former France soccer great Raymond Kopa, who won three European Cups with Real Madrid in the 1950s, died at the age of 85 on Friday.
"Raymond Kopa was a legend of French football... and was one of France's most admired sportsmen," French president Francois Hollande said in a statement.
A crafty advanced playmaker, Kopa guided France to third place at the 1958 World Cup won by Pele's Brazil, and was named the tournament's best player.
"It is a terrible loss, he is a legend," French football federation president Noel Le Graet said in a statement.
Kopa was one of four French players, with Michel Platini, Zinedine Zidane and Jean-Pierre Papin, to have won the Ballon d'Or, football's top individual award.
Born in northern France in a family of Polish immigrants, Kopa won three consecutive European Cups with Real Madrid from 1957.
A pit boy in the coal mines of Noeux les Mines, he lost a finger in a mining accident before starting his football career at Angers at 17.
In 1951, he joined Reims, leading them to the European Cup final in 1956, losing 4-3 to Alfredo Di Stefano's Real Madrid.
Kopa scored 18 goals from 45 caps with France between 1952-62.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)