Manchester City legend Colin Bell has died, aged 74, after a short illness, the Premier League club have announced.
The former England midfielder made 501 appearances for City between 1966 and 1979, scoring 153 goals. He won 48 caps for his country.
“Few players have left such an indelible mark on City,” said a club statement on Tuesday.
In 2004, Manchester City fans voted to name one of the stands at Etihad Stadium in Bell’s honour.
“Colin Bell will always be remembered as one of Manchester City’s greatest players and the very sad news today of his passing will affect everybody connected to our club,” said City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak.
“I am fortunate to be able to speak regularly to his former manager and team-mates, and it’s clear to me that Colin was a player held in the highest regard by all those who had the privilege of playing alongside him or seeing him play.
“The passage of time does little to erase the memories of his genius.”
After starting his career at Bury, Bell moved to Manchester City – then in the second tier – midway through the 1965-66 season in a £47,500 deal.
He helped Joe Mercer’s team win promotion that season and was instrumental in the Blues winning the First Division title two years later.
During his 13 years as a player at Maine Road, he also won the FA Cup, League Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup.
However, his career was hampered by a serious knee injury he suffered in a League Cup tie against Manchester United in November 1975, when he was 29.
After making a comeback later that season, he was injured again against Arsenal and out for another 18 months.
Bell regained fitness and received an emotional ovation on his return at Maine Road on 26 December 1977.
However, he did not have the same freedom and mobility as he had done and played only a handful more games.
Bell finished his career with a brief spell in the United States playing for San Jose Earthquakes.
In 2004, he was awarded an MBE for his services to football and remained a regular presence at City games in recent seasons.
‘De Bruyne reminds me a lot of Colin’ – tributes pour in for the ‘King of the Kippax’
Former City team-mate Mike Summerbee, who was part of their ‘Holy Trinity’ alongside Bell and Francis Lee in the 1960s and 1970s, described Bell as “just the greatest footballer” the club has had.
“Colin was a lovely, humble man. He was a huge star for Manchester City but you would never have known it,” said ex-forward Summerbee, 78.
“He was quiet, unassuming and I always believe he never knew how good he actually was.
“[Current City midfielder] Kevin de Bruyne reminds me a lot of Colin in the way he plays and the way he is as a person.”
Former England forward Lee says he thinks the knee injury curtailed Bell’s career “by a good four or five years”.
“Colin had tremendous stamina. He was a very good player technically and had the ability to score goals,” said Lee, 76.
“He goes into the top five City players of all time – only in the last 10, 15 years has anyone else come along who can take that mantle.”
Summerbee and Lee were among a number of former and current City players to pay tribute to Bell, along with celebrity fans including former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher.
Bell would “always have a smile” and “meet and greet everyone” he knew, said former City midfielder Michael Brown.
“He’s done lots of charity work and always tried to help people,” added Brown, who first met Bell as a youngster having come up through City’s academy.
“It’s a huge loss. To have done so much and be so low key was admirable.”
Ex-City defender Micah Richards said Bell was “one of the nicest men ever”, while their former full-back Pablo Zabaleta added he was “absolutely devastated” by the news.
Former England striker Gary Lineker said Bell was one of his favourite players when he was growing up.
“Terrific box to box midfielder. A real gem for Manchester City and England,” added the Match of the Day host.
The Times’ chief football writer Henry Winter said Bell “oozed class, skill and glamour” as he was “flowing across rutted pitches, taking people on, creating and scoring”.