French footballing legend Raymond Kopa has died, aged 85.
In 1970, Kopa became the first footballer ever to be honoured with the Legion d'honneur - the highest civil merit awarded by the French government.
"The passing of Raymond Kopa plunges the federation into vast sadness", said Noel Le Graet, the president of the French football federation in a statement.
A sad day for French football. He was a symbol and a front runner.
"Everyone will remember his exploits that will remain unmatched". He was even banned for six months in 1963 after claiming "the professional footballer is the only man who can be bought and sold without his consent like a slave" at a time when clubs held complete sway over their players' destinies. "I extend my deepest condolences to his family and loved ones".
He is regarded in France as the true forerunner to former UEFA president Michel Platini and Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane.
Real Madrid paid their own tribute to the player last August as Stade Reims were invited to play at the Trofeo Santiago Bernabéu with "Little Napoleon" as he was fondly known, the guest of honour and along with former Madrid legend, Paco Gento, both players kicked the game off.
Kopa, who won three European Cups alongside the likes of Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo Di Stefano in the 1950s, had been hospitalised in the French town of Angers since Sunday.
The Spanish giants were suitably impressed, and Kopa went on to play alongside greats such as Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas.