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Raymond Kopa Biography

Thu 25 November 2021 | 11:30

He is simply one of the best attacking midfielders in the history of French football. In this article, we will take a look at Raymond Kopa biography.

Raymond Kopa, born 13 October 1931 in Nœux-les-Mines and died 3 March 2017 in Angers, was a French footballer. He played from the late 1940s until the late 1960s. Most of the time he was deployed as an offensive midfielder.

His career started with US Nœux-les-Mines, the team of the town where he was born. In 1949, he was signed by Angers SCO, where he embarked on his professional football career at the age of 17. He joined Stade de Reims after two years, where he won the French national championship in 1953 and 1955. He made it to the first-ever European Cup I final with Reims in 1956. In the final, they lost 4-3 to

Real Madrid

.

In the next season, midfielder Kopa joined Real Madrid, where he played with Alfredo Di Stéfano and Ferenc Puskás, among others. There he won the Spanish championship and in 1957, 1958 and 1959 became the first French player to win the European Cup I. His old club Stade de Reims was the opponent in the last final. He then returned to Reims, with whom he won two national titles.

Between 1952 and 1962, Kopa played 45 times for the French national team and managed to score 18 goals. In the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, he came third with the French national team.

All You Need to Know About Raymond Kopa Biography

Kopa was elected European Footballer of the Year in 1958. Pele named him one of the 125 best living players forty-six years later in the FIFA 100 list. In 1967, he ended his career and started to monetise his fame by advertising fruit drinks and sports articles, among other things. Since then he lived partly in Angers, but most of the year in Corsica.

Raymond Kopa Information

Now that we know the French footballer much better, in this section of

Raymond Kopa biography

we will share more general information about him such as

Raymond Kopa nationality

to let you know him even better.

Raymond Kopa Bio

  • Full Name: Raymond Kopaszewski

  • Nickname: Little Napoleon

  • Profession: Professional Football Player

Raymond Kopa Physical Stats

  • Weight: 65 Kg

  • Height: 1.68 m

  • Eye Color: Brown

  • Hair Color: Dark Brown

Raymond Kopa Football Information

  • Position: Attacking Midfielder

  • Jersey Number: 7

  • Professional Debut: 1949

Raymond Kopa Date of Birth and Personal Info

  • Date of Birth: 13 October 1931

  • Birth Place: Nœux-les-Mines, France

  • Zodiac Sign: Libra

  • Nationality: French

Now stay tuned to this section of

Raymond Kopa biography

as we want to share some info about

Raymond Kopa childhood

.

Raymond Kopa Early Life

Raymond was born in a family of miners. In 1919, his paternal grandparents together with four children, including Raymond's father Franz, then aged thirteen, moved from Poland to France. They finally settled in the Pas-de-Calais region, in Nœux-les-Mines, which was a pure mining region.

Like some 6,000 other post-war Polish immigrants, the Kopaszewskis kept their language and their Catholic faith, although the younger ones integrated themselves into the French lifestyle. Hélène, his mother, was also Polish and from a family of miners that had existed for at least three generations.

Kopa had struggled at school, which was due to language difficulties since Polish was spoken at home. Beginning at the age of five, Kopa developed an interest in football and began playing it any time he could: at school in the mornings, in his parents' garden in the afternoons, at half-time on Sundays during the local team's games, and at family gatherings at their home in Mazingarbe.

He played for the US Nœux-les-Mines club from the age of fourteen, together with his brother Henri, who was a goalkeeper. He tried without success to find a job as an apprentice electrician in 1945 so that he could pursue a better profession than a miner, but he continued to work in the mine for the next two and a half years.

He broke his left thumb and index finger in a landslide in October 1947 and had them partially amputated. He received a monthly pension of 200 francs for this and stopped working in the mine temporarily. In 1949 he returned to work, but had rather a less risky job as a boilermaker and as a player in the local team.

Jean Batmale became the club's coach in 1947 and trained the Polish-born youngster to play dribbles and feints more often. It was Nœux-les-Mines who dominated the youth championship and the Northern Cup, and Kopa was named in the regional team for the national cup in the spring. They were knocked out in a 6-3 defeat to the Lorraine side, with Kopa scoring 2 goals in that game.

Batmale was replaced by Constant Tison the following year. Meanwhile, Nœux-les-Mines' youth team managed to qualify for the final of the Northern Cup, which was played in Béthune. In the first half, the Gialloblù were down by three goals, but in the second half Kopa equalised with a hat-trick and Nœux-les-Mines went on to win the cup thanks to the most corners taken.

Following this excellent performance, Tison made the decision to let Kopaszewski play in the first team, despite the fact that he was not yet 17 years old. He scored the winning goal in the first game, at Tourcoing. Now stay tuned to this section of Raymond Kopa biography as we want to share some info about his career at

Angers

.

Angers

Having played some good matches in the first team, Angers SCO and Stade

Reims

both showed interest in the player. At first, Kopaszewski rejected the first offer from Angers since he wanted to move to Reims, and the Nœux-les-Mines directors wished the player to remain for one more season and then go to Reims.

But the Champagne club would not make an offer, so Kopaszewski, eager to leave the club, accepted the offer from the Angers directors. In return for the payment of 100,000 francs, Kopaszewski's father agreed to the transfer of his son, and he signed a semi-professional contract, with the Angevin club giving the promise of finding him a job as an electrician.

He was introduced to the team by coach Camille Cottin when he first arrived at the club with the following statement: "His name will no longer be Raymond Kopaszewski, but Raymond Kopa!". Unable to find the job as an electrician promised at the time of signing, the team then offered him a professional contract at 21,000 francs per month plus bonuses.

For Angers, the 1949-1950 season started with an away match against

Monaco

. Kopa with his new team went on to lose to his former coach Batmale's side. However, in their first home game, they won 4-0 against

Marseille

II, with Kopa scoring a brace.

However, the Anjou side placed fifteenth out of eighteen and was knocked out in the fourth round of the Coupe de France against Le Perreux. Sporadically, the team performed well, like the 1-0 win in the second leg against Monaco owing to a Kopa goal.

Things did not go any better for the club the following season, as they finished in 14th place; Kopa had eight goals and was the team's top scorer. As a result, the player opted to leave Angers and switch to a club with higher ambitions. Kopa was spotted by Reims coach Albert Batteux during a friendly match between Angers and the Red and Whites on 15 April 1951.

At first, Kopa joined Reims on a trial basis and then played a friendly match against the Spanish national team at the Chamartin stadium. Delighted with the player's performances, the club's board entered into negotiations with the Anjou club, asking a price of 1,800,000.

As the negotiations continued, Kopa went on a trip to Algeria with Stade Reims, at which point the Reims officials agreed to pay the sum set by Angers. Kopa was asking for a bonus of 500,000 francs, while the club's president proposed 300,000 francs. Following an initial refusal, Kopa was convinced by coach Batteux to play at Reims.

Stade de Reims

Kopa arrived in Reims on 1 August 1951 after the tour of Algeria. He was taken in by coachman Battaux on arrival in the city and then found accommodation with Francis Méano and Antonio Abenoza in a boarding house run by the Allegretti family of bicycle dealers in Chanzy Street. The pre-season friendlies were dominated by Reims, winning the first game 10-0 against a Charleville and Mohon side, with Kopa scoring a double. They scored 32 goals in four games, 9 of which were scored by Kopa.

Kooper was absent from the first game of the season and debuted in the next game. In order to make up for the absence of Pierre Sinibaldi, coach Batteux initially had thoughts of replacing the player himself, but then reconsidered and trusted in the young newcomer. Kopa debuted in the first division on 2 September 1951 in a match against Strasbourg resulting in a goalless draw.

Reims travelled to Paris on 11 November to face Racing Club de Paris. The 5-2 win for Reims also saw space for a Kopa goal, described by the press as great, and words of appreciation for the youngster. One of the most significant games of the season was the 8-1 win against Marseille, which saw Kopa score a hat-trick. The striker scored 8 goals at the end of the season and Reims finished fourth.

The next season was actually even better than the previous one. Kopa moved into the middle with the arrival of Léon Glovacki, somewhat behind Glovacki and Bram Appel, who occupied the attacking positions. Reims claimed two triumphs: the league and the Latin Cup, with a 2-1 win over

Valencia

in Porto in the semi-finals and a 3-0 win over AC Milan in Lisbon in the final.

Kopa then missed the first game of the new season against Metz but appeared in the next game against Sochaux. He scored a total of three goals in thirty-three games while the team dropped the league by only one point against

Lille

and was knocked out by Marseille in the national cup. Kopa's only success was a victory in the Charles Drago Cup against Lille at the Parc des Princes.

In the 1954-1955 season, Kopa was French champion again. With eleven goals, the player reached double figures in a season for the second time in his career. Kopa also managed to score in the national cup for the first time, with two goals, which, however, were not enough to prevent Champagne's elimination in the Round of 16 against Lille.

During the 1955-1956 season, which was Kopa's last before moving to Madrid, the team came tenth in the table. In thirty league games, the forward scored five goals and netted four goals in five games in the national cup.

Raymond Kopa Profile

Reims went on to compete in the inaugural edition of the Champions Cup in the same season. After three victories against Aarhus, Vörös Lobogó and Hibernian, the team made it to the final but eventually lost the last match against Real Madrid 4-3. In that competition, Kopa did not score a single goal, although he played seven matches.

Kopa's professional footballing skills were soon sought after by the biggest European teams. It was AC Milan who first expressed interest in the player, but he was subsequently sold to Real Madrid for 520,000 francs in 1956.

Now stay tuned to this section of

Raymond Kopa biography

as we want to share some info about his career at Real Madrid.

Real Madrid

Kopa moved to Madrid with his family in August 1956. Having to wait for Alfredo Di Stéfano's naturalisation as a Spaniard due to bureaucratic problems, he could not play in the first team from the start, and while waiting he played in the reserve team. However, his first game in a Real shirt was a friendly against

Sochaux

, on the day of Kopa's introduction to the public at the Chamartín stadium. This match ended 14-1, with the Frenchman scoring 3 goals.

While initially deployed as a right-winger, the Frenchman moved to central attack for the game against Atlético in the aftermath of the 4-0 defeat to rivals

Barcelona

. This change of position had a very positive effect on the team, as they won with five goals, two of which were scored by Kopa. Subsequently, he was moved back to his original position, giving way to Di Stéfano, who was highly regarded by Kopa.

The Blancos won the title at the end of the season, 5 points ahead of their pursuers, and this was the first Spanish league championship won by Kopa. Real won the Champions Cup for the second time in the same year by defeating Fiorentina 2-0 in the final, and Kopa was the first French to triumph in the competition. He made thirty appearances and scored eight goals in the league and cup.

During the following season (1957-1958), Madrid confirmed what they had achieved in both competitions by defeating

Atlético Madrid

by three points in the league and winning the European Cup for the third time in a row: The Spanish side prevailed in the final against

AC Milan

courtesy of a Gento goal in extra time.

Kopa made his contribution to these successes by scoring a total of 11 goals in 34 games. In the wake of this triumph, Santiago Bernabéu permitted the player to play in the World Cup with his national team. As manager Saporta, dispatched to Sweden to find the best talent in the World Cup, commented, "We can't buy the best player in the World Cup because we already have him.

He is Raymond Kopa." In 1958, thanks to his performances, both at Real Madrid and in the French side, he managed to win the Ballon d'Or ahead of Germany's Helmut Rahn and his former teammate Just Fontaine.

Kopa went on holiday to Corsica and Angers after the international tournament. The Madrid officials then offered the striker a five-year contract extension, for a salary of twenty million francs a year; however, he rejected and only extended his contract for one more season, because he did not want to spend another five years in a foreign country.

The last Spanish league played by Kopa was not won by Real, but instead was ousted by Barcelona; however, the Merengues managed to win the Champions Cup for the fourth time in a row. Kopa did not play at his best in the final against Stade Reims after sustaining a knock to the knee in a clash with Jean Vincent. Kopa left at the end of the season and rejoined his former club: Stade Reims.

Return to Stade de Reims

Stade Reims had undergone major changes to the team between Kopa's Madrid departure and his return, meaning that Kopa only had Giraudo, Jonquet, Jacquet, Leblond and Siatka as his former teammates, as well as coach Batteux.

With 109 goals, the team had great success and Kopa made his own record for the most goals in a season having scored 14 goals in 36 appearances which earned him the title of the best player in the competition and sixth place in the Ballon d'Or standings. Reims failed to become French champions the following season, and also fell to Burnley in the last 16 of the European Cup Winners' Cup.

Meanwhile, the 1961-1962 season was the last French league championship Kopa won: while Reims were level on points with RC Paris and triumphed thanks to a goal difference better than their opponents, Kopa scored only two goals. He was even less successful the following year, only scoring one goal, but Reims finished second behind Monaco.

For Kopa's side, the 1963-1964 season was a total disaster, as they finished second last with the poorest attack of the tournament and were relegated to Division 2. Kopa made the decision to stay in Reims and attempt promotion, which was successful two years later in 1966. On 11 June 1967, when he was 35 years old, Kopa retired from professional football.

France national team

Kopa's first call-up to the French national team came in 1952 when he had just arrived at Reims. He was present at the 1954 World Cup, in which France's performance was rather disappointing, being knocked out in the group stage. Kopa scored once, in a fruitless 3-2 win over

Mexico

, and was one of the best midfielders of the tournament.

During the 1958 World Cup, Les Bleus had a better team. Kopa was at the

World Cup

even though he didn't take part in the Qualifiers, as Real Madrid officials wouldn't release him. He quickly developed a formidable partnership with Roger Piantoni and Just Fontaine, the trio who netted five of France's seven goals in their 7-3 opening victory over Paraguay. Kopa scored one of those goals.

France

, inspired by their attacking trio, progressed to the final stages, only to stop against Brazil in the semi-finals. In the third-place play-off against West Germany, Kopa performed exceedingly well. He scored one of the goals and gave Fontaine an assist.

In 1962 France did not qualify for the World Cup and surprisingly lost the qualification to Bulgaria. Injuries, which also affected Piantoni and Fontaine and had already jeopardized his place in the 1960 European Championship, prevented Kopa from playing in the decisive matches. The year 1962 also marked his farewell from the French national team, in a game against Hungary.

Now stay tuned to this section of Raymond Kopa biography as we want to share some info about his playing style.

Style of Play

In his early career, Kopa was a player who kept the ball and often tried to dribble. Sir Albert Batteux described him as 'dry, brisk, rough'. He had efficient footwork despite the severity of the leather balls. The press praised the player after his first game with Stade de Reims. In 1952, when Léon Glovacki transferred to Stade de Reims, Bram Appel was transferred to the right side of the pitch and gave up his place in the middle to Kopa.

Since he was not a pure centre forward, Kopa moved back to get away from the defenders to acquire speed and dribble past opponents. Although he had good vision and accurate passing and shooting, he usually forgot to give the ball to his teammates and was often blamed for slowing down the game. His most important qualities were therefore his dribbling, his intelligence on the pitch and his versatility.

Reception

Raymond Kopa is still considered to be one of the most gifted players of his generation. The architect of the great Stade de Reims and master of the game for Real Madrid and Les Bleus, the 1958 Ballon d'Or winner left an unforgettable mark on the game. Many pundits regard him as one of the best attacking midfielders of French football.

Raymond Kopa outside Football

Starting in 1954, Kopa began to commercialize his surname, when he negotiated an arrangement with the shoe brand Noël to launch shoes under his name. Kopa went on to increase the products bearing his name and included sports articles and leisure garments.

When he returned from Spain in the early 1960s, he operated a newspaper and tobacco shop and co-owned a hotel in Reims. Later on, he founded his own brand of sportswear, the Kopa group. When his career in football ended, he invested in the group and administered the company himself. In 1991, he retired from the company.

Kopa starred in a TV commercial made by Passion Company for the Norwich Union insurance company in 1999, where the Frenchman promoted the Longue Vie policy on a football pitch.

He took part in the 1985 Dakar Rally as the co-driver of Étienne Smulevici. The two competed in a Mitsubishi Pajero and finished 65th overall.

Raymond Kopa Personal Life

In this section of Raymond Kopa biography, we will take a deeper look into his personal life and share some information about things like

Raymond Kopa life story

and

Raymond Kopa religion

, stay tuned.

Family, Children and Relationships

He met Christiane Bourrigault, who played basketball for the SCO, when he was in Angers and they married each other on 28 July 1953. Together with his wife, they had one son named Denis who passed away on 15 February 1963 in Reims as a result of lymphosarcoma. They had two daughters, Nadine and Sophie, in addition to Denis. Nadine was diagnosed with breast cancer, which was treated at the Gustave-Roussy Institute. Raymond Kopa became involved in the fight against cancer since then.

At the age of 85, Raymond Kopaszewski died following a long illness on 3 March 2017, in Angers. He was buried on 8 March 2017 at Saint-Maurice Cathedral in Angers and was attended by more than a thousand people, among them his former teammate Just Fontaine, Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez, the president of the French Football Federation (FFF), Noël Le Graët, and the French Minister of Sport, Patrick Kanner.

Philanthropy

Raymond Kopa was always active in many charitable causes and helped different charity projects on several occasions. He decided in 2008 to donate the copyright of his autobiography Kopa par Kopa to the Gustave Roussy Cancer Institute. He also donated more than 10,000 euros to the institute.

Legal Issues

There are not any reports of legal issues or disputes regarding Raymond Kopa either in the French or English media at the time of writing this Raymond Kopa biography article.

Raymond Kopa Career Statistics

In this section of Raymond Kopa biography, we will take a look at his career stats on the international and club level.

Club

Between 1949 and 1967, Kopa played a total of 541 matches for different European clubs, most notably for Reims and Real Madrid and scored 123 goals in all competitions.

International

He was part of the French national team for 11 years and played a total of 45 matches for his country, scoring 18 goals.

Raymond Kopa Honors

He has won the French Division 1 and Division 2, Latin Cup, La Liga and European Cup on the club level with Real Madrid and Reims. With the France national team, he finished third-placed in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.

The list of Raymond Kopa’s individual awards includes the Ballon d'Or, FIFA World Cup All-Star Team, French Player of the Year, Etoile d'Or, UEFA President's Award and many others.

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