Former England great Jimmy Greaves dies aged 81

·4-min read
Former England striker Jimmy Greaves (left) has died at the age of 81 (AFP/STRINGER)

Jimmy Greaves was hailed as the "best goalscorer to ever play" after the former Tottenham and England striker died aged 81 on Sunday.

Greaves, Tottenham's all-time leading scorer, suffered a stroke in 2015 which left him wheelchair-bound and with severely impaired speech.

One of the game's great characters, Greaves, who also starred for Chelsea during his iconic career, died at home on Sunday morning.

"We are extremely saddened to learn of the passing of the great Jimmy Greaves, not just Tottenham Hotspur's record goalscorer but the finest marksman this country has ever seen," the club said.

Tottenham will pay an emotional tribute to Greaves when they host Chelsea in a fitting Premier League fixture on Sunday.

The players will wear black armbands, while Greaves' former team-mates including Martin Chivers and Steve Perryman are expected to be in attendance.

West Ham, another of Greaves' old teams, will hold a minute's applause ahead of Sunday's match against Manchester United, while players will also wear black armbands.

Greaves' former Tottenham team-mate Alan Mullery led the tributes, saying: "I can picture Jimmy on the field, side-footing the ball past the keeper. He was a wonderful footballer, the best goalscorer to ever play.

"He scored goals for fun, you'd be irritated that he'd not touched the ball and then bang, back in the net. He was the best goalscorer I have ever seen."

A member of England's 1966 World Cup-winning squad, Greaves scored 44 goals in his 57 appearances for England.

His strike-rate was phenomenal as he scored 357 goals in England's top flight, a record which still stands.

For Tottenham, the charismatic Londoner, renowned for his cheeky wit, scored 266 goals in 379 appearances between 1961 and 1970.

The 37 league goals he bagged in the 1962/63 season has yet to be bettered by a Tottenham player in a single season.

"RIP Jimmy Greaves. A true legend and one of the great goalscorers. Thoughts are with his family and friends," tweeted England captain Harry Kane.

Tottenham striker Kane is second behind Greaves on the club's all-time list of goalscorers with 223.

Greaves began his career with Chelsea -- scoring on debut in 1957 against Spurs -- and his 41-goal haul in the First Division in 1960/61 still stands as Chelsea's record for a single season.

"Everyone at Chelsea Football Club is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of the great Jimmy Greaves," tweeted Chelsea.

A brief spell at AC Milan followed -- where he netted nine times in 14 games -- before he returned to England to join Tottenham.

Within a few months of arriving at White Hart Lane, Greaves won his first senior medal, scoring the opener in Tottenham's 3-1 win over Burnley in the FA Cup final.

The following season, his brace in the European Cup Winners' Cup Final helped Tottenham to a 5-1 demolition of Atletico Madrid, making them the first British club to win a European trophy.

He also played in Tottenham's 1967 FA Cup final win against his old club Chelsea.

Greaves played in all four of England's games at the 1962 World Cup but famously did not feature in the 1966 World Cup final victory over West Germany.

A shin injury had seen him replaced in the side by Geoff Hurst at the quarter-final stage.

Although he was fit for the final, Alf Ramsey's decision not to change a winning side was vindicated by Hurst's hat-trick at Wembley.

After leaving Spurs in 1970, he played for West Ham before retiring from the game at the end of the 1970/71 season at the age of 31.

Greaves scored a total of 366 goals in Europe's top-five leagues.

That stood as the all-time record until it was eclipsed by Cristiano Ronaldo in 2016-17.

In retirement, Greaves endured a debilitating fight with alcoholism.

But he still starred as a football pundit alongside former Liverpool striker Ian St John in the popular ITV programme 'Saint and Greavsie' between 1985 and 1992.

After a long campaign for his England achievements of 1966 to be recognised, Greaves finally received a World Cup winners' medal in 2009.

"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," Hurst tweeted.

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