Just Fontaine, the all-time top scorer in a single World Cup finals with 13 goals, has died aged 89, his family told AFP on Wednesday.
Fontaine achieved the record in the 1958 finals in Sweden where France reached the semi-finals for the first time in their history, losing to Pele’s Brazil.
Part of a wonderful attacking trident at that World Cup alongside Roger Piantoni and Raymond Kopa, Fontaine might never have gone to Sweden at all.
Only injuries to fellow forwards Thadee Cisowski and his Reims teammate Rene Bliard saw him make the squad and then the starting line-up.
“I am saddened to hear of the passing of Just Fontaine, as will be all those who love football and our national team,” France coach Didier Deschamps said in comments published by the French Football Federation.
“‘Justo’ is and will remain a France legend.”
Fontaine also won four French league titles, one with Nice and three with the great Reims side of the post-war era.
He played in the Reims team that lost to the Real Madrid of Alfredo di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas and Raymond Kopa in the 1959 European Cup final.
Reims paid tribute to their former star by posting a picture of him in the club’s colours during his playing career, calling him an “eternal legend”.
Nice, for whom Fontaine scored 52 goals in 83 matches, said there would be a tribute to him ahead of their Ligue 1 game against Auxerre on Friday.
Fontaine was forced to retire in 1962 at the age of just 28 after he suffered a double leg fracture.
He later moved into management, lasting just two matches in charge of France in 1967 before leading Paris Saint-Germain to promotion to the top division in 1974 and then coaching Morocco to third place at the 1980 Africa Cup of Nations.
“A monument of French football has left us,” PSG said in a statement.
“It is a sad day for all those who love Paris Saint-Germain, a club he led into the first division 50 years ago.”