Win, but with elegance.
Nicknamed “Le Roi,” meaning the King of France,
this man dominated the game.
With one touch to avoid contact with an opponent and another touch to execute a pass, he would send the ball to a decisive position that only he could see and nobody noticed.
Even if he was standing at the halfway line, he would suddenly, magically appear in front of the goal and feed in the ball to score. The instinctive scorer led the Serie A in goals for three years straight.
What many people remember about him most is his decisive free kicks that were critical tipping points between victory and defeat, in a last qualifying match that would spell elimination if his team lost it, and a final that secured a championship.
Not a natural talent
Although he had a slight physique considered undesirable for a footballer, he found success at youth tournaments. A club approached him about signing a professional contract.
They broke off talks, though, when they determined he had cardiovascular issues. He instead signed with what was a small, weak club that at the time shuffled back and forth between the first and second divisions. Plus, he was a reserve player.
However, he gained a unique weapon there.
He once told a Japanese journalist that in his youth, he refined his forte by practicing shooting from the halfway line.
As he improved upon that weapon, the free kick, he gradually demonstrated that talent at the club. The feeble small-market club won promotion to the top division and at the cup match, he scored the deciding goal.
His success only grew greater from then on.
That career all started when he first went pro and, donning the le coq sportif jersey, would shoot day in and day out from the halfway line.