Bobby is one of the real gentlemen in global sport and his status as the greatest ambassador in the history of British sport pays testimony to his sense of fair play and his belief in honest values.
Fellow Laureus Academy Member and German football legend Franz Beckenbauer, who played against Bobby in the 1966 World Cup Final at Wembley and the 1970 World Cup quarter-final at Leon, Mexico, said: “Bobby was a legend on the field and he is a real gentleman off the field. There are only a few athletes who deserve to receive this Award, but Bobby deserves this 1,000 per cent.
“I would put him in the top five of all time. I would say, for me, Pelé is untouchable. He’s the best player ever and then one step behind there is Bobby, there is Maradona, there is Cruyff, there is Platini. Everyone respects him because he was such a fair player. Football has been his life from when he became a professional when he was16 till today. His heart, his head, everything is football.”
Bobby’s name is synonymous with Manchester United. At just 20, he survived the Munich air disaster in 1958, which killed so many of the team and dedicated himself to the rebuilding of the club. By the time he retired in 1973, he had scored 245 goals in 751 games for United and had enjoyed success in the 1968 European Cup, England's Division One league title in 1957, 1965 and 1967 and the 1963 FA Cup.
For England, he will forever be associated with the World Cup victory in 1966. Following the 1966 World Cup, he was voted Footballer of the Year and European Footballer of the Year and continued to play to the highest standard until he retired. In total he played 106 times for England, scoring a record 49 goals. He was knighted ‘Sir Bobby Charlton’ in 1994.
Sir Alf Ramsey, England's coach that year, has been generous with his praise of Bobby. "He was one of the greatest players I have seen and he was very much the lynchpin of the 1966 team. 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."