The world of football has united in tribute to Manchester United and England legend Sir Bobby Charlton, who died on Saturday.
Charlton, who “passed peacefully in the early hours of the morning” after being diagnosed with dementia in 2020, lifted three league titles, an FA Cup and a European Cup in a distinguished 17-year career at Old Trafford.
He also scored 49 goals in 106 appearances for the Three Lions, famously helping them win the World Cup in 1966.
“For me, [he is] England’s greatest ever player,” former England striker Gary Lineker told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“You can only judge players that you have seen in your lifetime and I was lucky enough to see him play when I was a young boy. He was one of my heroes, one of many people’s heroes.
“I was always nervous and in awe of him, but he was so gentle as a man he always put you at ease. He was always so kind.
“He was unique. Wherever you go in the world, even if they didn’t speak the language, they knew two words – Bobby Charlton.”
Part of Manchester United’s so-called ‘Holy Trinity’ alongside club legends Denis Law and George Best, Charlton scored twice in a famous 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 England’s record goalscorer until 2015, when Wayne Rooney surpassed the Ashington-born attacking midfielder’s tally of 49.
“When you read about everything he has done in the game, how many trophies he has won, appearances he has made and goals he has scored, he could have been excused for having a little bit of arrogance about him,” said former Newcastle and England striker Alan Shearer.
“But there was absolutely none of that. If you hadn’t watched a game of football and didn’t see him play, you would just see him as a normal guy. I don’t think you will ever hear anyone say a bad word against him.
“He was not only a great goalscorer but a scorer of great goals. If anyone is wanting to look at how to strike at a football, look at Sir Bobby Charlton.”
England manager Gareth Southgate also paid a heartfelt tribute to Charlton and said: “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.
“The world of football will unite in sadness at losing an undisputed legend.”
“A legend, a giant passing away – his achievements are so immense and huge. Global, not only England, [what] he achieved is incredible,” Red Devils manager Erik ten Hag said after his team’s Premier League victory at Sheffield United on Saturday evening.
“All the games, his titles, his trophies, the contribution he had with his goals.
“I never had the honour to meet him but I heard despite all his trophies and games he was so humble. A big personality and an example for all of us – as a footballer and also in society and worldwide.”I heard some players got some inspiration from it and they wanted a win to mark it. It was an extra motivation, absolutely.”
Club captain Bruno Fernandes laid a wreath in Charlton’s memory prior to kick-off at Bramall Lane, while both sets of players and fans took part in a minute’s applause.