Tributes have been paid to Manchester City legend Colin Bell, following his passing at the age of 74.
Nicknamed the King of the Kippax and Nijinsky, after the famous Derby-winning horse, Bell made 492 appearances for City, scoring 152 goals.
Bell, Mike Summerbee and Francis Lee formed City’s legendary ‘Holy Trinity’, the trio inspiring the club to the famous league title triumph of 1967-68.
Of the three, Bell was unquestionably the most talented, but his glittering career was effectively ended by a serious knee injury at the age of just 29.
He left City in the 1978-79 season and, after a short-lived spell with the San Jose Earthquakes in the US, retired from playing.
In his 13-year spell with City, Bell won the title, as well as the FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup in a golden era for the Blues.
Summerbee led the tributes and compared Bell to current City star Kevin De Bruyne in terms of his style and personality.
“Colin was a lovely, humble man,” said Summerbee. “He was a huge star for Manchester City but you would never have known it.
“He was quiet, unassuming and I always believe he never knew how good he actually was.
“He was just the greatest footballer we have ever had. Kevin De Bruyne reminds me a lot of Colin in the way he plays and the way he is as a person.
“Colin was very close to all of us and particularly Tony Book – they used to go to the games together and I only briefly spoke with Tony this evening because it’s hit him very hard, as it has all of us.
“Even though I knew he’d been poorly for a while, I wasn’t expecting to lose him. It’s a complete shock.”
Book, Bell’s former captain, manager and close friend, said: “He was a very special person, not only as a footballer but as a man.
“I can’t believe he’s gone. He is irreplaceable. We had some great times together and I’ll miss him terribly.
“It’s an awful shock and it has hit me very hard, I can promise you.”
Lee echoed those tributes and said: “He was a fantastic player and a very important part of the successful team City had from the late 1960s onwards.
“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.”
As well as his success with City, Bell won 48 England caps, a figure that would have been far higher but for the career-threatening injury he sustained.
Bell was awarded the MBE in 2004 and that same year was honoured when City unveiled ‘The Colin Bell Stand’ at the Etihad Stadium in recognition of his legendary status at the club.
He leaves behind wife Marie, children Jon and Dawn, and grandchildren Luke, Mark, Isla and Jack.