October 23 – Tributes are pouring in from all quarters following the death of Sir Bobby Charlton, arguably the greatest English footballer of all time.
The attacking midfielder, who famously won the World Cup in 1966 along with his late brother Jack, died on Saturday aged 86, three years after being diagnosed with dementia. He also lifted three league titles with Manchester United, an FA Cup and a European Cup in a distinguished 17-year career.
Perhaps the most iconic figure in the history of the English game, Charlton survived the 1958 Munich air disaster that decimated a Manchester United team destined for greatness and went on to become a national hero.
“The privilege of meeting him on several occasions allowed me to understand his personal pride and emotion in having represented England, and simply confirmed in my mind his standing as one of the gentlemen of the game,” said England manager Gareth Southgate. “The world of football will unite in sadness at losing an undisputed legend.”
Charlton scored 49 goals in 106 appearances for England and was part of so-called ‘Holy Trinity’ alongside fellow club legends Denis Law and George Best, scoring twice in the 4-1 extra-time win against Benfica in the 1968 European Cup final as Sir Matt Busby’s team became the continent’s first English champions.
“He was one of my heroes, one of many people’s heroes,” said former England captain and current tv presenter Gary Lineker. “He was unique. Wherever you go in the world, even if they didn’t speak the language, they knew two words – Bobby Charlton.”
Charlton, renowned for his humility on and off the field, was never sent off in 758 appearances for United from 1956-73 or 106 internationals for England from 1958-70.
He was rarely seen in public in the final years of his life after being diagnosed with dementia. His death leaves Geoff Hurst, who scored a hat trick in the 1966 final, as the only surviving member of that England team.
“We will never forget him and nor will all of football,” said Hurst. “He will be sorely missed by all of the country beyond sport alone.”
United players past and present were quick to pay their respects.
“Sir Bobby was the reason I had the opportunity to play for Manchester United,” said David Beckham, who made his first-team debut for the club aged 17 after attending Charlton’s soccer school. “I owe everything to Sir Bobby.”
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