Geoff Hurst, David Beckham lead wave of tributes to Manchester United legend Bobby Charlton
LONDON – England World Cup winner Geoff Hurst and former Manchester United star David Beckham led the tributes to Bobby Charlton, who died on Saturday at the age of 86.
Hurst, who hit a hat-trick in the 1966 final for England in the 4-2 extra-time win over West Germany after Charlton had scored crucial goals on the way to the Wembley title decider, described him as a “great colleague and friend”.
“Very sad news today, (one) of the true greats Sir Bobby Charlton has passed away,” the 81-year-old, the only surviving member of Alf Ramsey’s heroes, wrote on X.
“We will never forget him and nor will all of football. He will be sorely missed by all of the country beyond sport alone.”
Beckham, whose full name is David Robert Joseph, said Charlton had a huge influence on his career.
“It all began with Sir Bobby, the reason I had the opportunity to play for Manchester United,” he posted on Instagram.
“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, not just in Manchester and our country where he won the World Cup in 1966.
“A true gentleman, family man and truly a national hero... Today isn’t just a sad day for Manchester United and England, it’s a sad day for football and everything that Sir Bobby represented.”
Wayne Rooney, who overtook Charlton as United’s leading scorer, said he was “still in shock” at the death.
“Sir Bobby was always great with me. We had conversations not just about football but about life,” said the former striker, who has just returned to English football as Birmingham City manager.
“He’s a huge loss to football and a huge loss to his family, more importantly. He’ll be greatly missed.”
Gary Neville, a former United captain, said that Charlton was “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,” he added.
For former United captain Rio Ferdinand, Charlton was “Mr Manchester United”. He recalled exchanging words with him when United won the European Cup for the third time in 2008.
“What a true gentleman of not many words, but when he spoke you stood still, stopped what you were doing and listened,” he wrote on X. “The words he shared with me at the bottom of those stairs in Moscow, before I went up to lift the trophy, will stay with me forever.
“It was a privilege for me to even get that moment with him at that specific time.”
United great and former skipper Eric Cantona posted on Instagram: “Rest in peace dear Sir Bobby Charlton. One of the best of all time.”
Tributes also poured in from outside the club.
Former England forward Gary Lineker described Charlton as “England’s greatest-ever player”, while Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said Charlton was a “big legend” who had paved the way for future generations.
Bayern Munich board member Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said: “He was a great person and a true gentleman who FC Bayern valued very much.”
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, meanwhile, said Charlton “has a place in history as one of the game’s greatest players and was hugely loved”. - AFP