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Sir Bobby Charlton, one of the most loved and decorated players in the history of English football, has died aged 86.
The former Manchester United forward played for his country 106 times and was a key member of the England team that lifted the World Cup in 1966, alongside his older brother Jack. He won the Ballon d’Or, the award for Europe’s best player, in the same year. During his international career he scored 49 times, an English record that stood for 45 years.
“Sir Bobby was a hero to millions, not just in Manchester, or the United Kingdom, but wherever football is played around the world,” United said in a statement on Saturday.
“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.”
Charlton played 758 times for United and scored 249 goals in a club career that brought three league titles and victory in the European Cup in 1968.
He survived the Munich air disaster in 1958, when a plane carrying the United team — along with journalists and fans — home from a match in Belgrade crashed while taking off. Of the 44 people on board, 23 died, including eight United players. Charlton, who was 20 at the time, returned to the pitch a month later.
Following his playing career, he served as a director at United for 39 years. The South Stand at Old Trafford, United’s home ground, was renamed the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand in 2016. There is a statue of Charlton along with fellow United legends George Best and Denis Law outside the stadium, marking the trio’s part in the club’s European Cup win.
England manager Gareth Southgate said that Charlton was “one of the gentlemen of the game”, adding: “The world of football will unite in its sadness at losing an undisputed legend.”
Former England and United player David Beckham, whose middle name is Robert, said: “Sir Bobby was the reason I had the opportunity to play for Manchester United. I will be forever grateful to a man I was named after, someone I looked up to and was a hero to many around the world.”
The Football Association said there would a tribute to Charlton at Wembley Stadium when England play Malta on November 17.