French coach Bruno Metsu, best known for leading Senegal into the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup, has died from cancer at the age of 59, friends said on Tuesday.
"He died overnight at 3:30 a.m," Herve Beddeleem, the executive director of BCM Gravelines-Dunkirk basketball club told AFP, confirming a report in La Voix du Nord newspaper.
"I am shattered by this news. Bruno had everything to be happy - an exemplary professional career, money, a happy marriage and children and then this cancer takes him away. It's just incredible," he said.
Metsu stood down as coach of Dubai first division side Al Wasl in October due to health reasons.
He subsequently told L'Equipe newspaper in July that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer after undergoing medical examinations to discover why he had felt ill.
"I underwent medical tests and the guy announces to me afterwards that I had terminal cancer. 'You have cancer of the colon, the liver and the lungs.' They gave me three months to live, It was such a shock," he said.
Instantly recognisable on the touchline with his dapper suits and long hair, Metsu caused a sensation at the 2002 World Cup when his Senegal team defeated reigning champions France in the opening match.
The Lions of Teranga went on to reach the quarter-finals where they lost 1-0 to Turkey.
Just months ahead of the World Cup, Metsu also guided Senegal to their only appearance in the final of the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations where they were beaten on penalties by Cameroon.
"It's a great loss for Senegal, Bruno Metsu not only marked Senegalese football but the entire history of Senegal," Augustin Senghor, president of the Senegalese Football Federation told AFP.
After his successful spell in charge of Senegal, Metsu went on to coach several clubs and nations in the Gulf region, notably winning the Gulf Cup with the United Arab Emirates in 2007.
"I've lost my brother," said Michel Rouquette, who worked with Metsu at French club Sedan and was his assistant at Qatari side Al-Gharafa.
"On a sporting level he'll be remembered as a coach who knew how to motivate his troops," said Rouquette.
"His playboy side with his long hair gave him a laid back image and because of that he could never make a career as a coach in Europe. It's a shame."
French Sports Minister Valerie Fourneyron paid tribute to a man who would be remembered as someone "who never gives up, this tireless globetrotter of football who always pushes others to exceed their limits".
French Football Federation (FFF) president Noel Le Graet added that Metsu's legacy was above all that of a winner.
"He was really passionate about football, he'll leave the memory of a winner who succeeded I'd say on all continents with mad passion, a desire to win, consistency.
"An important personality from French football has left us. He gave the impression of a man able to convince others that French football had values. He was an example to follow in his convictions and the missions he undertook."