KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Leopoldo Jacinto Luque, Argentina’s centre-forward foil for Mario Kempes when they won the 1978 World Cup as hosts, has died at from heart trouble exacerbated by Covid-19.
Luque’s achievement in 1978, to which he contributed four goals. was all the more emotional and remarkable because he had to quit the squad temporarily during the group stage after his brother was killed in a road accident
The 71-year-old played his mainstream club football with River Plate, Unión de Santa Fe, Rosario Central and Racing. He scored 22 goals in 45 appearances for his country.
Luque was born on May 3, 1949 in the city of Santa Fe, and made his professional debut with Unión in 1965. He made headlines in 1972 with Rosario Central. Later he won five domestic championship titles with River Plate whom he joined in 1975.
Messages of condolence were issued by the Argentininan football federation and the professional league.
In the 1978 finals Luque broke an elbow despite scoring a goal in Argentina’s 2-1 victory over France in their second game. After the game he learned not only of the fracture but of the death of his brother, who had been killed in a collision with a lorry earlier in the day on the way to pick up match tickets.
Luque had scored one goal in Argentina’s opening win over Hungary and struck twice in the controversial 6-0 defeat of Peru in the second round which sent the hosts on to the final in which they beat Netherlands 3-1 after extra time.
Years later Luque said: “Coaches like Cesar Menotti with the national team and Angel Labruna with River made me feel I was the best forward in the world.”
Many members of the 1978 felt, in later years, that they had not been granted the respect they were due – compared with the 1986 World Cup winners – because they had won both as hosts and also during the painful dictatorial era of the military junta.
A statement from River Plate said: “We bid farewell to Leopoldo Jacinto Luque, historical figure of our Club, hero of 78 and glory of Argentine football. Goodbye, World Champion.”
Other tributes followed swiftly from Luque’s 1978 team-mates Kempes, Ubaldo Fillol and Alberto Tarantini. Kempes described Luque as “a great friend and colleague.”
Fillol, on his Twitter account, wrote: “Goodbye, dear friend Leopoldo. A great person, a formidable teammate and an exceptional player. You were an example for the entire squad in 1978. Thank you for what you gave to Argentinian football. We will miss you.”