Former England football captain Wilkins dies aged 61

London (AFP) - Former England, Chelsea and Manchester United midfielder Ray Wilkins died on Wednesday at the age of 61, days after suffering a cardiac arrest.

Former England football captain Wilkins dies aged 61

Former England football captain Wilkins dies aged 61

Wilkins, who won 84 England caps and was one of the most technically gifted players of his generation, had been treated in a London hospital since Friday.

The hospital issued a statement on behalf of the family, thanking friends, colleagues and members of the public for the "many goodwill messages".

Chelsea, in a Twitter post, said: "Everybody associated with Chelsea Football Club is devastated to learn of the passing of our former player, captain and assistant coach, Ray Wilkins. Rest in peace, Ray, you will be dreadfully missed."

Wilkins, known in the game by his childhood nickname "Butch", played for 11 clubs including AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Rangers, and was on the coaching staff of several more.

The midfielder started his career with Chelsea and spent six years with the Blues, while also having numerous stints as assistant manager. On one occasion, he led the side on a caretaker basis.

"Without question one of Chelsea's greatest, most famous and most admired home-grown players, Ray was a much-loved icon and ambassador. He will be dreadfully missed," the club said on its website.

During his career as a player, Wilkins won the FA Cup with Manchester United in 1983, scoring a memorable goal in the first tie against Brighton at Wembley, which ended 2-2. He also won the Scottish title with Rangers in 1989.

United's legendary former manager Alex Ferguson led the tributes, saying: "Ray was a great football man, who was well respected and liked by all who knew him and he always had a kind word and time for people.

"Ray was an impressive football talent and had a fantastic career representing some of the biggest clubs.

"As a manager, Ray was so popular amongst his League Managers' Association colleagues and I know that he will be missed by us all."

Wilkins became the fourth player sent off while playing for England when he was dismissed during the 1986 World Cup finals in Mexico in a game against Morocco.

Current England manager Gareth Southgate was a youngster at Crystal Palace when Wilkins took on a player-coach role in 1994 under Alan Smith.

"I'll always remember the humility that he had, coming into that dressing room, having played for Manchester United, AC Milan, PSG and being a multiple-capped player for England," Southgate said.

"He just fitted into the group so easily and had the complete respect of everybody.

"He was one of the great English midfielders. Until you work with somebody, you don't necessarily know how technically good they are."

Wilkins, who had been employed as a TV pundit, worked alongside Guus Hiddink at Stamford Bridge and was assistant when Carlo Ancelotti took over.

Manchester United tweeted: "The thoughts and prayers of everyone at Manchester United are with the family, friends and colleagues of our former midfielder Ray Wilkins, following his tragic passing."

A tweet on AC Milan's account ahead of their derby against Inter said: "Goodbye Ray, you will be missed: tonight we're gonna fight like you taught us!"

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