One of England’s greatest ever forwards, Greaves scored 44 goals in 57 international appearances and is Spurs’ record goal scorer with 266 goals in 279 games.
Greaves also played for AC Milan and West Ham United and scored a total of 366 top-flight goals during a 14-year career, which stood as a record for most goals scored in Europe’s top five leagues for 46 years until it was broken by Cristiano Ronaldo in 2017.
A member of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning squad, Greaves missed out on the final after getting injured during the tournament. He was replaced by Geoff Hurst, who scored a hat trick in England’s 4-2 win against West Germany.
Problems with alcoholism cut Greaves’ career short at the age of 31 and he also had health issues during his later years and suffered strokes in 2012 and 2015.
“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,” Spurs said in a statement. “Jimmy passed away at home in the early hours of this morning [Sunday 19 September], aged 81.”
The England national football team’s Twitter account added: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jimmy Greaves… All of our thoughts are with his family, friends and former clubs.”
Born in east London in 1940, Greaves signed for Chelsea and made his professional debut at the age of 17. He scored 132 goals in 169 games with the Blues, racking up 100 league goals by the time he turned 20.
He attracted interest from Italy and signed with AC Milan in 1961, but only managed 12 appearances and nine goals in his single season at the club.
We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jimmy Greaves at the age of 81.
All of our thoughts are with his family, friends and former clubs. pic.twitter.com/CetXiwD25l
— England (@England) September 19, 2021
Greaves returned to England with Spurs in 1962 for £99,000 and scored in the FA Cup final as Tottenham lifted the trophy that season.
His nine seasons in north London coincided with the most successful decade in the club’s history. Greaves would also win the FA Cup with Spurs in 1967, as well as the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1963.
Greaves made his England debut in 1959, scoring in a 4-1 win against Peru. He holds the record for the most hat tricks scored by an England player and netted the first of his six in an 8-0 win against Luxembourg in 1960.
He scored the last of his 44 England goals in 1967 and is fourth on England’s all-time goal scorers list behind Wayne Rooney, Bobby Charlton and Gary Lineker.
After leaving Spurs in 1969, Greaves moved across London to sign for West Ham, where he stayed for two seasons until 1971. Due to problems with alcoholism and fitness, Greaves was less prolific during his final two years in the top flight and scored 13 goals in 40 appearances for West Ham before he retired in 1971 at the age of 31.
After retiring, Greaves pursued a career in broadcast media and presented popular football talk show Saint and Greavsie alongside former Liverpool striker Ian St John from 1985 to 1992.
Greaves eventually received his World Cup winners medal in 2009. Due to FIFA rules which were subsequently overturned, only the players who finished England’s 4-2 win over West Germany on the pitch received winners’ medals in 1966.