Eusebio da Silva Ferreira, who was born into poverty in Africa and became one of the world's top scorers during the 1960s, died Sunday at 71.
He died at his Lisbon home of heart failure, his biographer, Jose Malheiro, said. Eusebio was admitted to the hospital several times over the past year for heart and respiratory problems.
"A football genius and example of humility, an outstanding athlete and generous man, Eusebio was for all sports fans and for all Portuguese an example of professionalism, determination and devotion to the colors of the national jersey and of Benfica," Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho said in a statement.
A bronze statue of Eusebio, poised to kick a ball, stands outside Benfica's Stadium of Light, where fans began laying flowers after his death was announced. Eusebio's coffin was to be taken to the stadium so fans could pay respects.
Known affectionately as the Black Panther for his athleticism and finishing touch, Eusebio was voted one of the 10 best players in soccer history.
Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portugal captain who plays for Real Madrid, commented on his Facebook page, "Always eternal Eusebio, rest in peace."
Eusebio was awarded the Ballon d'Or in 1965 as Europe's player of the year and twice won the Golden Boot in 1968 and 1973 for being the top scorer in Europe. According to soccer's governing body, he had 679 goals in 678 official games.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter tweeted, "Football has lost a legend. But Eusebio's place among the greats will never be taken away." German great Franz Beckenbauer also took to Twitter: "One of the greatest football players ever has passed away."