Mike Summerbee paid tribute to “a lovely, humble man” and Manchester City’s “greatest footballer” following the death of former team-mate Colin Bell.
City announced Bell had “passed away peacefully” on Tuesday afternoon aged 74 after a “short, non-Covid related illness”.
Former England international Bell made 492 appearances and scored 152 goals for City during his 13-year stay after joining from Bury in 1966, helping secure promotion to the top flight.
Bell was one of City’s stand-out players as they edged out Manchester United to win the First Division title in 1968.
FA Cup success followed in 1969 as well as two more trophies in 1970 – the League Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup. Bell was the club’s top scorer three times.
Bell earned the nickname ‘The King of the Kippax’ after one of the terraces at their former Maine Road home, and has a stand named after him at the Etihad Stadium following a fans’ vote.
Winger Summerbee played alongside Bell in City’s flamboyant team, and remembered his former team-mate’s humility despite all of the plaudits coming his way.
“He was a huge star for Manchester City, but you would never have known it,” Summerbee said on the club’s official website.
“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.”
Former England international Summerbee, now a club ambassador, added: “He was adored by the City fans and for our supporters to say he is the best they have ever seen, you don’t get a better compliment than that, do you?
“He was very special and he will be very sadly missed.”
"Few would argue that alongside today’s modern-day legends, Bell is regarded as one – if not the – greatest player that Manchester City has ever had – and with good reason."
— Manchester City (@ManCity) January 5, 2021
Alongside Bell and Summerbee, forward Francis Lee was part of City’s memorable ‘Holy Trinity’.
Lee felt Bell “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.”
Defender Tommy Booth broke into the City team as a 17-year-old, going on to captain the City team in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“For me it was a privilege to play alongside him and share in so many special moments,” Booth said on the City website.
Extremely saddened to hear Colin Bell has passed away. The King Of Kippax was a true legend and someone I've grown up admiring. You'll be sorely missed Nijinsky 💔 pic.twitter.com/MQaEbBOCb6
— Phil Foden (@PhilFoden) January 5, 2021
“And but for that terrible injury in 1975, goodness knows what he would have gone on to achieve.
“He was simply the complete player and no-one will ever, ever forget what he did for our club. Colin the King. That says it all.”
Former City goalkeeper Joe Corrigan felt Bell was “irreplaceable – he was a once-in-a-generation talent.”
City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak said Bell was “a player held in the highest regard” and “the passage of time does little to erase the memories of his genius”.
Rivals United also paid tribute, writing on Twitter: “All of us at ManUtd are deeply saddened by the passing of Colin Bell, a true footballing legend. Condolences to Colin’s loved ones and everyone at ManCity.”
💙 Seldom has a player been as beloved at a club as Colin Bell at @ManCity. He was affectionately known as 'The King of the Kippax' and has a stand named in his honour at the City of Manchester Stadium 👑🏟️
— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) January 5, 2021
A tweet on the official England team account read: “We’re deeply saddened by the news that Colin Bell, who won 48 caps for the Three Lions between 1968 and 1975, has passed away.”
Former England striker Gary Lineker said on Twitter: “Saddened to hear that Colin Bell has passed away. One of my favourite players when I was growing up. Terrific box to box midfielder. A real gem for ManCity and England. #RIPColin.”
A tweet from FIFA read: “Seldom has a player been as beloved at a club as Colin Bell at ManCity. He was affectionately known as ‘The King of the Kippax’ and has a stand named in his honour at the City of Manchester Stadium. RIP to one of England’s finest all-time midfielders.”
Bell leaves behind wife Marie, children Jon and Dawn and grandchildren, Luke, Mark, Isla and Jack.
Difficult 48 hours seeing our hero slip away. Devastated to be without our amazing husband, dad & pops. @ManCity fans will share our immense loss. Thank you for the kind messages of support. We will be watching the team wear the No. 8 shirt with pride tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/ZekjbeUiSS
— Dr Jon Bell (@Radiology_UK) January 5, 2021
Tributes to Bell will be paid at City’s Carabao Cup semi-final tie against rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford on Wednesday night, with players set to wear a retro number eight shirt before kick-off.
His son Jon, a consultant interventional radiologist and clinical director delivering cancer care at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, said on Twitter: “Difficult 48 hours seeing our hero slip away. Devastated to be without our amazing husband, dad & pops.
“ManCity fans will share our immense loss. Thank you for the kind messages of support. We will be watching the team wear the No. 8 shirt with pride tomorrow.”