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Gordon Banks: England World Cup-winning goalkeeper dies aged 81

Former England goalkeeper Gordon Banks has died at the age of 81, his family said on Tuesday.

Banks won 73 caps during a nine-year international career and was part of the England side that won the World Cup on home soil in 1966.

"It is with great sadness that we announce that Gordon passed away peacefully overnight," Banks' family said in a statement released by his former club Stoke City.

"We are devastated to lose him but we have so many happy memories and could not have been more proud of him."

Banks made his England debut in 1963 and played every game of the 1966 World Cup, including the final at Wembley where the hosts beat West Germany 4-2 to win the tournament for the first time.

He became known as one of the best goalkeepers in the world during his international career and is remembered for making a remarkable save from Brazil's Pele at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.

The stop, in which Banks leapt across the goalmouth to turn the striker's header around the post, was soon dubbed "the save of the century."

Pele posted a tribute to the six-time FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year on his Facebook page, saying Banks was a "goalkeeper with magic."

"For many people, their memory of Gordon Banks is defined by the save he made against me in 1970," Pele, 78, said. "I understand why."

"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.

"I scored so many goals in my life, but many people, when they meet me, always ask me about that save. While it was indeed phenomenal, my memory of Gordon is not defined by that -- it is defined by his friendship.

"So I am glad he saved my header -- because that act was the start of a friendship between us that I will always treasure.

"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."

Banks began his career at Chesterfield in 1958 before establishing himself at Leicester City following a transfer in 1959.

After appearing 293 times for Leicester, Banks joined Stoke in 1967 and stayed at the club until 1973. His international and top-flight career ended in 1972 following a car accident, which resulted in Banks losing sight in his right eye at the age of just 33.

"We're deeply saddened to hear that Gordon Banks, our World Cup-winning goalkeeper, has passed away," the England national team tweeted. "Our thoughts are with Gordon's friends, family and supporters at this difficult time."

Former England forward Sir Bobby Charlton, who played alongside Banks in the 1966 final, said: "Gordon was a fantastic goalkeeper, without doubt one of the best England has ever had.

"I was proud to call him a teammate. Obviously we shared 1966 but it was more than that. Even though I was on the pitch I still don't know how he saved that header from Pele."

The Germany national team added their tribute, saying: "A fierce opponent and a good man. Rest in peace, Gordon Banks."

Banks is also remembered for winning the 1972 League Cup with Stoke, in what remains to be the club's only major trophy.

Despite his eye injury, Banks continued to play until 1978 and ended his career at the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the North American Soccer League.

Information from Reuters contributed to this report