Bobby Charlton, the Manchester United legend who played a starring role in England’s 1966 World Cup victory, has died aged 86, the Premier League club said on Saturday.
Charlton is widely considered to be one of the greatest soccer players of all time.
“The club’s heartfelt sympathies go out to his wife Lady Norma, his daughters and grandchildren, and everyone who loved him,” Manchester United said in a statement.
The club described him as a “hero to millions, not just in Manchester, or the United Kingdom, but wherever football is played around the world.”
“He was admired as much for his sportsmanship and integrity as for his outstanding qualities as a player; Sir Bobby will always be remembered as a giant of the game,” added the statement.
Charlton died peacefully in the early hours of Saturday surrounded by his family, according to a statement from his family, per the English Football Association.
“His family would like to pass on their gratitude to everyone who contributed to his care and to the many people who loved and supported him. We ask that the family’s privacy be respected at this time,” the statement read.
Usually an attacking midfielder, Charlton made 758 appearances for Manchester United, scoring 249 goals in his 17 years at the club and winning three league titles, the FA Cup and the European Cup – now known as the Champions League.
He also won 106 caps for England, scored 49 goals – an England scoring record that stood for 45 years until Wayne Rooney broke it in 2015 – and played a major role in England’s World Cup victory Homeland Cup, the only time the country has won. the biggest prize in men’s soccer, scoring three times in the tournament.
Charlton is considered one of England’s greatest players and one of the best of his era, alongside Pelé, Eusébio, Bobby Moore, Garrincha and Franz Beckenbauer. He won the Ballon d’Or in 1966 for his performance in the World Cup that year.
The Manchester United statement continued: “His unparalleled record of achievement, character and service will forever be etched in the history of Manchester United and English football; and his legacy will live on through the life-changing work of the Sir Bobby Charlton Foundation.”
After his retirement, Charlton served as a director of Manchester United for 39 years.
Charlton’s older brother, Jack, who played alongside him in England’s World Cup-winning side, died in 2020.
Geoff Hurst – who scored a hat trick in the 1966 World Cup final – has paid tribute to his former X team-mate, formerly of Twitter, calling him one of “the true greats.”
“We will not forget him and neither will everyone in football. A great colleague and friend, he will be greatly missed by all the country above the sport alone,” said Hurst.
Charlton made his Manchester United debut in 1956 after graduating from the club’s academy, and became a core member of the club’s dominant, young side during the era under its legendary manager, Matt Busby.
Two years after his debut, tragedy struck when eight of his Manchester United teammates lost their lives in the Munich air disaster on February 6, 1958, when Flight 609 ZU crashed on the third attempt to take off after returning to Germany to return to United. home from knocking Red Star Belgrade out of the European Cup. Charlton was one of the survivors.
Busby’s side – coined the ‘Busby Babes’ – are back-to-back English champions and are well placed for a hat trick of titles.
Charlton became a key cog in Busby’s rebuilding effort, along with George Best, scoring twice in the 1968 European Cup final against Benfica as he captained the club to its first European title. He would also go on to captain the England men’s national team.
“One of our most iconic players, Sir Bobby Charlton’s impact on our only World Cup victory was there for all to see,” the current England manager, Gareth Southgate, said in a statement.
“The privilege of meeting him on several occasions allowed me to understand his personal pride and emotion in representing England and simply confirmed in my mind his standing as one of the Gentlemen of the game.
“The world of football will be united in its sadness at the loss of an undisputed legend.”
Former England captain Gary Lineker called Charlton “England’s greatest player.” “He may not be with us anymore but he will have immortality in football,” the 62-year-old wrote on social media.
Gianni Infantino, president of soccer’s world governing body FIFA, paid his tribute to Charlton at X, calling him a “football legend, whose impact on the game spans generations.”