PRESIDENT Michael D. Higgins has paid tribute to football legend Bobby Charlton after the former Manchester United star passed away at the age of 86.
Charlton — whose older brother Jack managed the Irish national side — won three league titles, an FA Cup and a European Cup with the Red Devils.
Both brothers also played as England defeated Germany in the 1966 Word Cup Final at Wembley.
In a post on Twitter, President Higgins said Charlton had brought 'immense joy' to football fans around the world.
"Deepest condolences to the Charlton family on the passing of Sir Bobby Charlton," he wrote.
"We recall the immense joy which Bobby and his brother Jack brought to so many people in Ireland, England and around the world."
Charlton's family confirmed he had passed away early on Saturday.
"It is with great sadness that we share the news that Sir Bobby passed peacefully in the early hours of Saturday morning," read a statement.
"He was surrounded by his family.
"His family would like to pass on their thanks to everyone who has contributed to his care and for the many people who have loved and supported him.
"We would request that the family's privacy be respected at this time."
Charlton, who was born in Northumberland in 1937, spent most of his club career at Manchester United.
He was one of the club's Busby Babes, a group of young players that had progressed from United's youth set-up into the first team.
Eight of the players, including Ireland's Billy Whelan, were among 23 people who tragically died in the February 1958 Munich air disaster as United returned from a European Cup tie in Belgrade.
Charlton survived and was an integral part of the club's rebuilding process, going on to captain United to their first European Cup in 1968 as he scored twice in a 4-1 final win over Benfica.
He missed the post-match celebrations, instead conducting a solitary remembrance of the friends he had lost in the tragedy 10 years earlier.
Charlton left United in 1973 and had short spells with a number of clubs including Preston North End and League of Ireland side Waterford FC before retiring from playing in 1980.
Waterford Football Club is saddened to hear the passing of former player Sir Bobby Charlton.
Bobby made four appearances for the Blues in 1976.
Our thoughts and condolences go to Sir Bobby’s family & friends.
May he rest in peace. pic.twitter.com/YMPQeAvEiz
— Waterford FC (@WaterfordFCie) October 21, 2023
On social media, the Blues paid tribute to their iconic former player.
"Waterford Football Club is saddened to hear the passing of former player Sir Bobby Charlton," they wrote.
"Bobby made four appearances for the Blues in 1976.
"Our thoughts and condolences go to Sir Bobby's family & friends. May he rest in peace."
Their sentiments were echoed by the Football Association of Ireland, who wrote: "The FAI joins the footballing world in paying tribute to the legendary Bobby Charlton who, of course, counted Waterford United amongst his former clubs in his illustrious career."
The governing body's Northern Ireland counterparts also offered their condolences.
"Everyone at the Irish FA is deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Sir Bobby Charlton," they wrote on Twitter.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends as well as everyone connected to Man Utd and England."
After hanging up his boots, Charlton served as a director at Manchester United for 39 years.
He was a regular visitor to Old Trafford on match days before it was announced in 2020 that he had been diagnosed with dementia.
In a statement, United said his legacy would live on at the club for whom he played 758 games and scored 249 goals.
"Sir Bobby's legacy lives on at Old Trafford, in the shape of the United Trinity statue he shares with his legendary team-mates Denis Law and George Best, and the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand, the stadium's south stand renamed in his honour in April 2016," said United.
Celebrity United fan Terry Christian, a Mancunian and second-generation Irishman, called for Charlton to be honoured in similar fashion to his former teammate and Northern Ireland legend Best.
"The greatest player England has produced," the broadcaster wrote on Twitter.
"A world-renowned name — consummate professional.
"Even in his later days in a struggling United side he scored both goals versus Wolverhampton at Old Trafford, Tommy Docherty's first win as United manager.
"Munich broke his heart — now he joins his close mates on the other side."
He added: "If Belfast rightly has George Best Airport I'm very much in favour of Manchester Airport being renamed Bobby Charlton Airport."