Pele has paid tribute to England’s World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks, calling him a “goalkeeper with magic” and saying their friendship was something he would “always treasure”.
Banks’ former club Stoke announced on Tuesday morning he had died, aged 81.
He made 510 league appearances for Chesterfield, Leicester and Stoke and won 73 senior international caps and was one of the stars of England’s 1966 World Cup triumph against West Germany.
Despite the 1966 win, he will always be remembered for the remarkable save he made to deny Brazil superstar Pele four years later in Mexico.
It’s been called the greatest save of all time, and in a Facebook post paying tribute to Banks, Pele said he was glad the goalkeeper had saved it.
Pele said he understood why the famous 1970 World Cup save against him was held in such high esteem.
“The save was one of the best I have ever seen – in real life and in all the thousands of games I have watched since,” Pele said.
“When you are a footballer, you know straight away how well you have hit the ball. I hit that header exactly as I had hoped. Exactly where I wanted it to go. And I was ready to celebrate.
“But then this man, Banks, appeared in my sight, like a kind of blue phantom, is how I described him.
“He came from nowhere and he did something I didn’t feel was possible. He pushed my header, somehow, up and over. And I couldn’t believe what I saw. Even now when I watch it, I can’t believe it. I can’t believe how he moved so far, so fast.”
The Brazilian added: “So I am glad he saved my header – because that act was the start of a friendship between us that I will always treasure. Whenever we met, it was always like we had never been apart.
“I have great sadness in my heart today and I send condolences to the family he was so proud of.
“Rest in peace, my friend. Yes, you were a goalkeeper with magic. But you were also so much more. You were a fine human being.”
The news of his death was revealed in a statement from the Banks family on the club’s official website.
It said: “It is with great sadness that we announce that Gordon passed away peacefully overnight.
“We are devastated to lose him but we have so many happy memories and could not have been more proud of him.
“We would ask that the privacy of the family is respected at this time.”
Along with a World Cup-winner’s medal, Banks’ 73-cap CV featured six FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year awards.
He also showed notable success at club level, with two League Cup wins, with Leicester in 1964 and Stoke in 1972.
In 1972, he lost the sight in his right eye after being injured in a road accident and retired at the age of 34 as a result.
Banks revealed in 2015 he was fighting kidney cancer for a second time, having lost a kidney to the disease 10 years earlier.
He is survived by his wife Ursula, whom he met during his national service in Germany in 1955, and their three children, Robert, Wendy and Julia.
Tributes poured in from football stars, pundits and clubs, including Gary Lineker who tweeted his condolences, calling Banks “an absolute here of mine”.
He said he was “one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time” and a “lovely lovely man”.
England manager Gareth Southgate said on the Football Association website: “I am deeply saddened to hear of Gordon’s passing.
“An all-time great for England, I was privileged enough to be in his company on a number of occasions.
“It was particularly special to be with him at a Football Writers’ tribute dinner last year and wish him well on his 80th birthday.
“Gordon spoke to the room about that incredible save from Pele against Brazil back in 1970 and moments like that from his remarkable World Cup-winning career will continue to linger long in the memory.
“On behalf of everyone connected with England, I send my condolences to his wife Ursula, his family and friends.”
Leicester City, for whom Banks played for much of the 1960s, tweeted they were ” deeply saddened to learn of the death of our former goalkeeper”.
Peter Shilton, who followed Banks as England number one, tweeted: “I’m devastated – today Ive lost my hero our condolences to his family rip Gordon.”
Former England player Michael Owen called him “one of the game’s true gentleman”.
England and Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling tweeted: “Of course there was THAT save, but it’s so much more we are mourning today.”
He added that Banks was an England “legend” and his legacy would live on.