The football legend died at his home in the early hours of this morning (Sunday, September 19), say Spurs, where Greaves scored 266 goals in 379 appearances between 1961 and 1970.
In a statement, the club said: "We are extremely saddened to learn of the passing of the great Jimmy Greaves, not just Tottenham’s record goalscorer but the finest marksman this country has ever seen. Jimmy passed away at home in the early hours of this morning, aged 81."
Greaves suffered a stroke in May 2015 which left him wheelchair-bound and with severely impaired speech. His cause of death has not been confirmed at this stage.
Paying tribute, Spurs added: "Throughout his wonderful playing career, Jimmy’s strike rate was phenomenal. His Spurs return was 266 goals in 379 appearances between 1961 and 1970 – 220 goals in 321 league games, 32 goals in 36 FA Cup ties, five in just eight League Cup ties and nine in 14 European matches."
A member of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning squad, although he did not feature in the final victory over West Germany, Greaves scored 44 goals across 57 senior appearances for the Three Lions.
England manager Gareth Southgate has paid tribute, saying: "Jimmy Greaves was someone who was admired by all who love football, regardless of club allegiances.
"I was privileged to be able to meet Jimmy’s family last year at Tottenham Hotspur as the club marked his 80th birthday. My thoughts are with them and I know the entire game will mourn his passing.
"Jimmy certainly deserves inclusion in any list of England’s best players, given his status as one of our greatest goalscorers and his part in our 1966 World Cup success.
"We will pay tribute to his memory at our home match with Hungary at Wembley Stadium next month. His place in our history will never be forgotten."
"One of the finest marksman this country has ever seen"
Greaves' career began in the junior ranks at Chelsea and he turned professional in May 1957, scoring on his Blues debut and racking up 132 goals in total for the club. He remained at Stamford Bridge until 1961, when he moved to AC Milan. After a single season in Milan he joined Spurs in 1961 to play in Bill Nicholson’s successful side.
The Tottenham statement continued: “Although we had just won the ‘Double’, there’s no question that Jimmy’s arrival in N17 made us an even better team.
“He was a natural goalscorer, always in the right place at the right time to add the finishing touch to another well-worked move, while he could also create his own goals, as he did on numerous occasions by gliding past defenders and passing the ball into the back of the net.
“He possessed immaculate ball control, great balance and such composure in front of goal that he rarely spurned an opportunity.”
Ossie Ardiles, who played for Tottenham throughout the 1980s, tweeted: “RIP Jimmy. Great player, great man. Very funny. Humble. Jimmy epitomises what Spurs is: “To dare is to do”… “When you come to meet the great goalscorer in heaven it matters not if you win or lose but how you played the game”.
“My prayers and thoughts with his family and friends.”
Former Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand tweeted: “Big loss to the footballing world.. sending my condolences to the Greaves family. “First autobiography I ever read! Inspiration.”
Greaves wound down his playing career with stints at West Ham and Barnet before starring alongside former Liverpool striker Ian St John in the popular ITV programme ‘Saint and Greavsie’ between 1985 and 1992, which saw him become a popular pundit.
West Ham tweeted: “We are saddened to learn the news of the passing of Jimmy Greaves. The club sends its deepest condolences to Jimmy’s family and friends.”
After a long campaign for his England achievements of 1966 to be recognised, Greaves finally received a World Cup winners’ medal in 2009; five years later he sold it in an auction at Sotheby’s for £44,000.
In later life, Greaves endured health problems, including a minor stroke in 1992 from which he recovered, but it was followed by a serious stroke in May 2015 which saw him unconscious for six days in intensive care and later left in a wheelchair.