Footballing greats past and present have hailed Jimmy Greaves as “the best goalscorer to ever play” and compared him to Lionel Messi as tributes continue to pour in following the death of the former Tottenham, England 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 Alan Mullery told Sky Sports: “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 spells 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.”
Ossie 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, saying his “strike rate was phenomenal”. He scored 266 times across 379 Spurs appearances between 1961 and 1970.
Spurs and Chelsea face each other in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon. A minute’s applause will take place ahead of kick-off and the players will wear black armbands.
A number of Greaves’ former team-mates are expected to be at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to pay their respects and among them was Martin Chivers, who said the modern-day player he would compare him to is Argentina star Messi.
“You’d have to look at Messi, how he jinks in and out. Jimmy was like that! They’d fly out at him, but he’d tap the ball in the net,” he told Sky Sports
“He was a cheeky chappy, one that always put me into trouble, all pranks and jokes! But on the field he was deadly. I wonder how he would play on these pitches. As a footballer, he was greedy! I would remember passing to him but very rarely did I get it back!”
Graeme Souness, who started out at Spurs, added on Sky Sports: “My recollection, he was a unique talent. Strikers come in very different forms. If it’s a black and white choice, goalscoring, not the work for the team, goalscoring, he is the greatest ever.
“I played with Ian Rush and worked with Robbie Fowler, he was above them. He had a sixth sense, but off the field he was a mickey taker! He was a true artist and you have to put him as the greatest scorer ever.”
Current England captain and Spurs centre-forward Harry Kane tweeted: “RIP Jimmy Greaves. A true legend and one of the great goalscorers. Thoughts are with his family and friends.”
Two more prolific ex-England strikers, Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer, also recalled and admired Greaves’ exploits.
Lineker, a former Spurs marksman, tweeted: “Terribly sad news that Jimmy Greaves has died. Quite possibly the greatest striker this country has ever produced. A truly magnificent footballer who was at home both in the box and on the box. A charismatic, knowledgeable, witty and warm man. A giant of the sport. #ripGreavsie”
Shearer wrote: “RIP Legend. Goals Goals, Goals. A remarkable goal scorer.”
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.”
West Ham issued a statement which read: “Everyone at West Ham United has been extremely saddened by the news that legendary striker Jimmy Greaves passed away this morning at the age of 81.
Jimmy Greaves lines up for England in 1966 (PA)
“A member of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning squad, the prolific goalscorer spent two seasons with the Hammers towards the end of his illustrious playing career, scoring 13 goals in 40 appearances, including two on a memorable debut at Manchester City in March 1970.
“There will be a minute’s applause ahead of KO today (against Manchester United) at London Stadium, while players will also wear black armbands in tribute to Jimmy.”
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.
Sir Geoff Hurst, who scored a famous hat-trick at Wembley as Greaves missed out, paid tribute to his former England and West Ham team-mate. Greaves scored 44 goals in 57 games for the Three Lions.
Hurst tweeted: “One of the truly great goalscorers, terrific guy with an absolutely brilliant sense of humour, the best. It has been a difficult time for him, he can now rest in peace.”
England manager Gareth Southgate said on thefa.com: “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.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “Sad to hear the news about Jimmy Greaves. He will be remembered as a goalscoring legend and one of the greats of English football. My thoughts are with his family, friends and fans.”