Manchester United and England legend Sir Bobby Charlton has been diagnosed with dementia.
The news follows the death of his older brother Jack in July and fellow England World Cup winner Nobby Stiles on Friday, both of whom had been diagnosed with dementia in later life.
Another two of the Three Lions’ 1966 heroes, Ray Wilson and Martin Peters, died in 2018 and 2019 respectively after living with dementia.
Studies into links between dementia and playing football continue and the news will reinforce calls for further investigation into how the risks can be mitigated.
Widely regarded as one of England’s greatest-ever players, Charlton, 83, played every minute of the World Cup triumph on home soil in 1966, eight years after surviving the Munich Air Disaster.
He would go on to win the Ballon d’Or later that year before inspiring Manchester United to the European Cup in 1968 with two goals in the final.
In all, Charlton plundered 249 goals in 758 games for United, a club record until it was surpassed by Wayne Rooney.
Charlton’s 49 strikes for England were also a record until Rooney beat that total.
His goal-scoring exploits were all the more impressive given he rarely played as an out-and-out forward, usually playing in an advanced midfield role.
Charlton had still been a regular attendee at Old Trafford with wife Lady Norma up until last season.
A statement from United on Sunday said: “Everyone at Manchester United is saddened that this terrible disease has afflicted Sir Bobby Charlton and we continue to offer our love and support to Sir Bobby and his family.”
In February, he travelled to Northern Ireland for the funeral of former Red Devils teammate Harry Gregg.
A film detailing Jack’s final years with dementia will be released later this month, in which his widow Pat says: “He’s not the same Jack – it’s dementia – and it’s a shame because he’s had some good memories.”
Tommy Charlton, younger brother of Bobby and Jack, said of Jack’s battle with the condition: “It is hard not to think it was linked to heading the ball.
“It was just the later years when he was worst affected. I had four uncles who all played football who were hit by dementia, and I am sure that had something to do with it.
“But he would not have had it any other way. If you had told Jack not to head the ball, he would have still done it.”