Football legend Sir Bobby Charlton dies as tributes pour in for World Cup winner

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    Footballing legend Sir Bobby Charlton has died at the age of 86.

    Charlton was a key member of the England team that won the World Cup in 1966 and also helped Manchester United to their first European Cup two years later. He is considered one of the greatest players of all time and won the Ballon d'Or in 1966 – going on to become one of just nine players to have won the World Cup, Champions League and Ballon d'Or.

    Charlton, who had been suffering with dementia in later life, is England's third-highest goalscorer with 49 strikes to his name, behind Wayne Rooney and record holder Harry Kane. He's also United's second-highest scorer with 249 goals, just four behind top-of-the-pile Rooney.

    READ MORE: Gary Lineker leads tributes to Man Utd legend Sir Bobby Charlton after death

    READ MORE: One of England's 1966 World Cup squad still alive after Sir Bobby Charlton death

    Bobby's family released a statement on Saturday afternoon, confirming his passing. "It is with great sadness that we share the news that Sir Bobby passed peacefully in the early hours of Saturday morning," it read. "He was surrounded by his family. His family would like to pass on their thanks to everyone who has contributed to his care and for the many people who have loved and supported him. We would request that the family’s privacy be respected at this time."

    United released their own statement shortly after, which read: "Manchester United are in mourning following the passing of Sir Bobby Charlton, one of the greatest and most beloved players in the history of our club.Sir Bobby was 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 he was for his outstanding qualities as a footballer; Sir Bobby will always be remembered as a giant of the game.

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    Charlton's tragic death means West Ham legend Sir Geoff Hurst is the only surviving member of the England squad that won the World Cup 57 years ago, when he scored a hat-trick in a 4-2 win over West Germany. It also comes just over three years after the passing of his older brother Jack, who was part of the same World Cup-winning squad.

    Tributes to the footballing icon quickly began pouring on social media. Ex-England star Gary Lineker wrote: "Deeply saddened to hear that Sir Bobby Charlton has died. A truly wonderful footballer and genuinely lovely man. A World Cup winner, @ManUtd great and, for me, England’s greatest ever player. He may no longer be with us but he’ll have footballing immortality. RIP Sir Bobby."

    United icon Gary Neville wrote: "So sorry to hear the news of Sir Bobby Charlton. The Greatest English Football player and Manchester United’s greatest ambassador. A champion on and off the pitch and a Busby Babe that paved the way for all to come at United. Rest In Peace Sir Bobby."

    World Cup final hat-trick hero Hurst said: "Very sad news today 1 of the true Greats Sir Bobby Charlton has passed away We will never forget him and nor will all of football A great colleague and friend he will be sorely missed by all of the country beyond sport alone Condolences to his family and friends from Geoff and Judith." Former England skipper John Terry also paid tribute, describing Charlton as "a true great and a wonderful man" as well as a "legend".

    Supporters rushed to social media to offer similar messages of sympathy, love and admiration. One wrote on X: "He was a true legend of the sport, a gentleman of the game, and an inspiration to us all." Another said: "A Manchester United and Football Icon. Your legacy will live on forever, Rest well Sir Bobby Charlton."

    Bobby made 758 appearances for United, having joined them as a teenager in 1956. He went on to become arguably the greatest player in the club's history, winning five major honours including three First Division titles as well the Red Devils' maiden European Cup title in 1968.

    The Northumberland-born star was one of the few people to survive the Munich Air Disaster, which claimed the lives of 23 individuals, including multiple members of United's first team squad as they made their way home from from a European Cup tie against Red Star Belgrade in 1958. Remarkably, Charlton, who was just 20-years-old at the time, escaped with only minor injuries.

    He went on to play a starring role in Matt Busby's United team as they picked up the pieces following the tragedy. Alongside George Best and Denis Law, Charlton helped form one of the most devastating attacking trios – nicknamed the Holy Trinity by supporters – in English football history.

    He scored twice in the European Cup final in 1968 to put a Eusebio-powered Benfica side to the sword, as United ran out 4-1 winners. It was the crowning achievement of a truly captivating club career, which ended with a season at Preston North End and short spells in Ireland and Australia.

    With England, Charlton took part in three World Cup tournaments, in 1962, 1966 and 1970. He became the second player after Billy Wright to earn over 100 caps for his country, and is currently one of just nine individuals to reach the landmark.

    Charlton scored three times during the Three Lions' triumphant World Cup campaign in '66, including two in the semi-final against Portugal. He was also awarded the World Cup Golden Ball – given to the best player at the tournament – and later won the Ballon d'Or to cap off the year.

    He was named also named Football Writers' Player of the Year in '66, shortly before firing England to glory at Wembley, and went on to finish runner-up in the Ballon d'Or twice in the following two years. Amazingly, he picked up just two yellow cards over the course of his career – one against Argentina at the 1966 World Cup and another against Chelsea.

    He initially hung up his boots in 1973 to become Preston manager, but changed to player/manager at the start of his second season in charge. He made 45 appearances for the Lancashire club before moving to Irish outfit Waterford United in 1975.

    Charlton didn't officially retire until 1980 after brief spells at three Australian clubs; Newcastle KB United, Perth Azzurri and Blacktown City. He later accepted a post as Wigan Athletic director and was briefly caretaker manager of the club in 1983, before moving back to United as a member of the board of directors.

    In the past couple of decades Charlton has served the club in an ambassadorial capacity. However, he hasn't been seen in public since attending his brother Jack's funeral in 2020, and it was revealed that he'd been diagnosed with dementia shortly after. He was reportedly too unwell to attend his brother Gordon's funeral in 2022.

    Charlton is survived by his wife Norma and their two daughters, Suzanne and Andrea. He also has several grandchildren, including Suzanne's son Robert, who is named in honour of his grandfather.

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