PARIS:  Robert Herbin, iconic and unmistakable captain then coach of Saint-Etienne during their greatest era between 1957 and 1981, has died at 81.

Herbin was admitted last week to hospital in Saint-Etienne where he died of heart and lung complications not related to coronavirus.

Born in Paris and brought up in Nice, ‘Roby’ Herbin made 509 appearances in midfield and then central defence for Les Verts. He played 23 times for France until suffering serious injury in a clash with Nobby Stiles at the 1966 World Cup finals in England.

In 1972 the flame-haired Herbin retired and ambitious president Roger Rocher immediately appointed him as coaching successor to veteran Albert Batteux. He took them on a series of thrilling campaigns in the European Champions Cup.

Saint-Etienne reached the 1976 final but lost 1-0 to Bayern Munich at Hampden Park, Glasgow. Fans always blame defeat on the square goalpost which blocked a late goal-bound shot from Dominique Rocheteau.

‘The Sphinx’ – nicknamed thus for his cool demeanour on the bench – was a French champion six times as a player and four times as coach. He was sacked in January 1983 and had spells with Lyon, Red Star Paris, Strasbourg, briefly in Saudi Arabia and back at Saint-Etienne without achieving similar success.