Just Fontaine, a legendary figure in French football, has died at the age of 89.
Fontaine, a Moroccan-born international player for France, holds the record for most goals scored in a single World Cup with 13 in just six games at the 1958 event in Sweden.
After establishing himself with USM Casablanca, he went on to have successful runs with Nice, where he netted 42 goals in 69 club appearances, and Reims, where he scored 122 goals in 131 games.
Most impressively, Fontaine also scored 30 goals for Les Bleus in just 21 appearances.
Injury-related setbacks sadly resulted in Fontaine’s playing career ending at the age of 28.
This didn’t prevent the French icon from making an impact on the game, though, as he had management positions with France, Luchon, PSG, Toulouse, and Morocco.
During the UEFA Jubilee Awards in 2003, the French Football Association chose him as France’s finest player of the previous 50 years, while another former great Pele voted him one of the 125 greatest living players in 2004.
With a strong international background, Fontaine scored a hat-trick on his debut and went on to score 30 goals in just 21 appearances.
On the list of all-time World Cup goal scorers, Fontaine is ranked fourth thanks to his performance at the 1958 World Cup, which France ultimately lost to Brazil in the semi-finals.
Despite Lionel Messi having played 20 more matches at the world championship, Fontaine is equal with the Argentinean in fourth place, behind Miroslav Klose, Ronaldo, and Gerd Muller.
He received a Golden Boot at the 2014 World Cup in recognition of his performance at the 1958 World Cup.
Just Fontaine: The World Cup Legend
Fontaine remarked, “I am extremely delighted to get this sneaker, unique, it’s nice because I too am unique, and the men next to me who offer me the price, are unique,” after accepting the award from Ronaldo and the disgraced former UEFA president Michel Platini on stage.
In the third-place match in that tournament, France defeated West Germany 6-3 thanks to four goals by Fontaine, making it a World Cup classic.
He scored seven times as many goals as Pele, who finished in second place in the overall tournament goalscorer rankings.
Strangely, Fontaine almost didn’t play in the tournament, but Thadee Cisowski and Rene Bliard’s injuries allowed him to join the team and eventually make the starting lineup.
‘Paul Nicolas, a member of the national team staff, and Albert Batteux, the France coach who didn’t really want me, told me I would be playing as center-forward only at the airport before departing for Sweden,’ Fontaine said to AFP in 2013.
The pinnacle of Fontaine’s following managing career came when he led Morocco to third place in the 1980 African Cup of Nations.
Together with Eugene N’Jo Lea, he created the National Union of Professional Football Players in France in 1961, which is the French version of the Professional Footballers’ Association. His legacy extended beyond his achievements on the field.