Robert Herbin, ex-Saint-Etienne player and coach, dies at 81

SAINT-ETIENNE, France (AP) — Robert Herbin, a player and storied coach of Saint-Etienne during the French soccer club’s glory years in the 1960s and ’70s, has died. He was 81.

Saint-Etienne announced the death of Herbin on Tuesday, without giving a cause, and described him as a “mythical character of French football” who “embodied” the club.

Easily recognizable because of his permed red hair, Herbin played for Saint-Etienne from 1957-72 and won the French league title five times in that period. He was a defender who also captained the team, and played 23 times for France.

He took over as coach soon after retiring at the age of 33 and revolutionized the fitness regime at the club from central France in the first of two spells in charge. He led Saint-Etienne to three straight league titles from 1974 and another in 1981 — when France great Michel Platini was in the squad — as well as three French Cups. Saint-Etienne also reached the European Cup final under Herbin in 1976, losing to Bayern Munich in Glasgow.

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Herbin returned as coach at Saint-Etienne from 1987-90, after shorts stints at Lyon, Al-Nasr in Saudi Arabia and Strasbourg.

Saint-Etienne said Herbin “placed ASSE in the light.”

“His priceless legacy will remain as his greatest accomplishment,” the club said. “His legend is eternal.”

French Football Federation president Noël Le Graët described Herbin as a “football monument.”

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