One of the best-known names in footballing history, England’s Bobby Charlton was a truly great player with exquisite skills and a thunderous shot. He is one of the real gentlemen in global sport and his status as one of the greatest ambassadors in the history of British sport is testimony to his sense of fair play and good values.
More than any other player, Charlton's name is synonymous with English club Manchester United. By the time he retired from the game in 1973, he had scored 245 goals in 751 games for United and, with the club, had won the 1963 FA Cup, the 1968 European Cup and England's Division One league title in 1957, 1965 and 1967.
With England, he will forever be associated with the World Cup victory in 1966. Although England began the tournament on their home soil with an uninspiring 0-0 draw against Uruguay, Charlton fired English hopes with a brilliant goal in their 2-0 defeat of Mexico. After a solo run of some 30 yards, he let rip from long range and the ball thundered into the net. That one moment, more than any other in the tournament led England fans to believe that their team could win the World Cup.
England's path to the final took them past France 2-0, Argentina 1-0 and then into the semi-finals against Portugal where Charlton played probably his best ever match in an England jersey. Combining swift running into space with crisp passing, he scored both goals as the home team fashioned a crucial 2-1 win. Charlton, almost on his own, had put England into the final.
Geoff Hurst may have earned all the headlines with his hat-trick in the World Cup final against West Germany, but it was Charlton's shadowing of the great play-maker Franz Beckenbauer, which was probably far more critical in deciding the eventual 4-2 outcome after extra-time. "England beat us in 1966 because Bobby Charlton was just a bit better than me," Beckenbauer later reflected.
Sir Alf Ramsey, England's coach that year, was also generous with his praise of Charlton. "He was one of the greatest players I have seen and he was very much the linchpin of the 1966 team. He had unique talents. He wasn't just a great goal scorer, with a blistering shot using either foot, he was a player who could also do his share of hard work."
Following the 1966 World Cup, Charlton was voted England’s Footballer of the Year, European Footballer of the Year and Best Player in the 1966 World Cup. For the rest of his career, Charlton maintained his extraordinary footballing standards and his uncanny ability to score goals. He played 106 times for England, scoring a record 49 goals. In 1974, he was awarded the CBE and, in 1994, he was knighted and became Sir Bobby Charlton. A director of Manchester United, he is also a member of FIFA’s Football Committee.