Tottenham greats Alan Mullery, Ossie Ardiles and Micky Hazard hailed “the best goalscorer to ever play” and “our hero” Jimmy Greaves as tributes poured in following the death of the former England, Spurs and Chelsea striker.
Greaves, who died at home on Sunday morning aged 81, suffered a stroke in May 2015 which had left him wheelchair-bound and with severely impaired speech. He had struggled with alcoholism and quit drinking in 1978.
His former Spurs team-mate Mullery told Sky Sports: “I am at Brighton, looking at the pitch and can picture Jimmy on the field, side-footing the ball past the keeper. He was a wonderful, wonderful footballer, the best goalscorer to ever play.
“He had to play (in an era) to stop people kicking lumps out of him, scored goals for fun, you’d be irritated that he’d not touched the ball and then bang, back in the net.
“I just don’t know how much more I can give to say he was the best goalscorer I have ever seen.”
Greaves spent a season with AC Milan between his prolific careers with Chelsea and then Tottenham.
Mullery added: “I don’t think you can get more famous, everywhere I go, I was in Italy and someone said to me ‘Jimmy Greaves, great scorer’, he was only there a year!
“Everywhere he went he scored goals, you’d get no players like that today.”
Former Tottenham midfielder Hazard tweeted: “Today we lost our greatest Jimmy Greaves.
“Words cannot explain how I feel and my thoughts and prayers go out to his wonderful family.
“Heaven has gained our hero and what a Spurs team we have up there. Rest in (peace) my friend, Jimmy you are simply the greatest Spur ever.”
Ardiles, who played for Spurs throughout the 1980s, tweeted: “RIP Jimmy. Great player, great man. Very funny. Humble. Jimmy epitomises what Spurs is: “To dare is to do”… “When you come to meet the great goalscorer in heaven it matters not if you win or lose but how you played the game”.
“My prayers and thoughts with his family and friends.”
Tottenham hailed Greaves’ goal return for the club during a successful near-decade at White Hart Lane.
“Throughout his wonderful playing career, Jimmy’s strike rate was phenomenal,” the club tweeted. “His Spurs return was 266 goals in 379 appearances between 1961 and 1970 – 220 goals in 321 league games, 32 goals in 36 FA Cup ties, five in just eight League Cup ties and nine in 14 European matches.”
Two of Greaves’ former clubs, Spurs and Chelsea, face each other in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon.
Chelsea added their own tribute when they tweeted: “Everyone at Chelsea Football Club is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of the great Jimmy Greaves.
“Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”
Reacting to his death on Sky Sports News, former Tottenham midfielder Jamie O’Hara said: “We are going to be able to witness that (grief) today, everyone will see it, and an amazing round of applause for him.
“It’s not easy to build a legacy at a club, Jimmy was an icon, football legend, Spurs have been very lucky to have such a great player as part of their club.
“A truly sad day to have lost someone so great. He is definitely a legend.”
A member of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning squad, although he did not feature in the final victory over West Germany, Greaves scored 44 goals across 57 senior appearances for the Three Lions.
The England team tweeted: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jimmy Greaves at the age of 81.
“Jimmy was part of our (World Cup)-winning squad and scored a remarkable 44 goals in 57 games for the #ThreeLions.
“All of our thoughts are with his family, friends and former clubs.”
England manager Gareth Southgate said on the Football Association website: “Jimmy Greaves was someone who was admired by all who love football, regardless of club allegiances.
“I was privileged to be able to meet Jimmy’s family last year at Tottenham Hotspur as the club marked his 80th birthday. My thoughts are with them and I know the entire game will mourn his passing.
“Jimmy certainly deserves inclusion in any list of England’s best players, given his status as one of our greatest goalscorers and his part in our 1966 World Cup success.
“We will pay tribute to his memory at our home match with Hungary at Wembley Stadium next month. His place in our history will never be forgotten.”
Current England captain Harry Kane tweeted: “RIP Jimmy Greaves. A true legend and one of the great goalscorers. Thoughts are with his family and friends.”
West Ham, where Greaves spent two seasons after leaving Tottenham in 1970, tweeted: “We are saddened to learn the news of the passing of Jimmy Greaves. The club sends its deepest condolences to Jimmy’s family and friends.”
Alan Shearer, another prolific former England striker, tweeted: “RIP Legend. Goals, Goals, Goals. A remarkable goal scorer”