Just Fontaine’s former club Stade de Reims and the French soccer federation confirmed the French star’s death on Wednesday following an impressive strike rate of 259 goals out of a total of 283 matches in his club career.
Fontaine scored a record 13 goals in a single edition of the World Cup. He took six games to achieve his feat at the 1958 tournament in Sweden, shortly after winning a French league and French Cup double for his side.
“Justo is, and will remain a legend of the French team,” France coach Didier Deschamps said.
Entering the World Cup tournament, the Moroccan-born Fontaine was a little-known forward outside of the French league. Yet he tormented opponents with his speed and finishing touch — and even with someone else’s boots. He had to borrow a pair of cleats after damaging his own boots in practice.
Fontaine scored four goals in the third-place game against West Germany but could have had five if he had taken the penalty kick.
In addition to his feats with the national team, Fontaine won the French league title four times, the French Cup and reached the final of the 1959 European Cup during his club career with USM Casablanca, Nice and Reims.
After he retired, Fontaine co-founded France’s players’ union and served as chairman for a few years. He also briefly coached France’s national team before stints with Luchon, Paris Saint-Germain, Toulouse and the Moroccan national team.
“A French football icon has passed, and Paris Saint-Germain would like to pay tribute to the man who led them to the first division some 50 years ago,” PSG said in a statement, referring to Fontaine guiding the club to the top league after a playoff win in 1974.
The French soccer federation said tributes to Fontaine will take place across France this weekend with a “minute of homage” that will also be observed on Wednesday before French Cup games at Toulouse, Marseille and Nantes.
“The death of Just Fontaine plunges French soccer into deep emotion and immense sadness,” said Philippe Diallo, the French federation’s interim president. “He was an emblematic figure, with his incredible record of 13 goals at the 1958 World Cup. He wrote one of the most beautiful pages in the history of the French national team.”
Fontaine’s meteoric rise as a scorer saw him get 200 goals in 213 games. He scored 30 goals in 21 games for France
Fontaine’s career was dramatically cut short when he was only 28. The Frenchman — renowned for his lightning pace and ruthless finishing — suffered a horrendous leg fracture after a mistimed tackle in March 1960.