Manchester City have unveiled a statue of club greats Mike Summerbee, Colin Bell and Francis Lee outside the Etihad Stadium.

The permanent bronze tribute on the west side of the ground captures the three players in dynamic poses characteristic of their styles of play.

Summerbee, Bell and Lee were the central figures in the City side that won the First Division title in 1968, the FA Cup the following year and both the European Cup Winners’ Cup and League Cup in 1970.

The names of all 29 players who featured during this trophy-winning era are also inscribed on a bronze plate on the statue’s plinth.

It is the latest in a series of tributes the club have made to honour past players, including the commissioning of statues of Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero, in recent years.

Summerbee, 80, who scored 67 goals in 449 appearances for City and remains an ambassador for the club, said: “This is a truly special moment for me and my family. I joined Manchester City in 1965 and it is the best decision I could have possibly made.

“Fifty years later I am still here, still treated with such respect. I feel incredibly lucky to be recognised in this way, amongst friends whose contribution to our history this club never forgets, despite the amazing success we have enjoyed in recent years.

“It is an honour to be part of this extraordinary club.”

Lee, who scored 148 goals in 330 appearances for City and later had a spell as chairman at Maine Road, died in October. Bell, who died in 2021, scored 153 goals in 498 City games.

The statue has been sculpted by the British artist David Williams-Ellis and is 4.5 metres high and four metres wide.

City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak said: “This statue honours three players who are unquestionably City legends and have deservedly earned a special place in the history of the club and hearts of the whole City family.”

Francis Lee was described as “the life and soul of the game” as football paid its last respects to the former Manchester City and England forward.

The funeral service for Lee, who died on October 2 at the age of 79 following a battle with cancer, was held at Manchester Cathedral on Thursday morning.

Figures from across the sport were in attendance as well as family, friends, associates from other aspects of his varied life and fans.

Lee scored 148 goals in 330 appearances for City between 1967 and 1974, winning the First Division title, the FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup.

Along with Mike Summerbee and Colin Bell, he formed part of a great triumvirate for which the club became renowned.

He also played for hometown side Bolton, earned 27 England caps and ended his career with Derby, where he won another league title in 1975.

Additionally he ran a highly successful toilet roll business and went on to become a prominent racehorse trainer before a spell as City chairman from 1994-98.

In 1974 he scored a stunning goal for Derby against former club City, prompting one of English football’s most memorable lines of commentary from broadcaster Barry Davies.

“Interesting…very interesting!” said Davies as Lee picked up possession and took aim before finding the net and running off to celebrate. “Look at his face, just look at his face!”

Davies was among the mourners to pay tribute on a drizzly morning in Manchester.

“He was a wonderful player, the life and soul of the game,” said Davies. “He was interesting, very interesting!

“He was a character and brought character to the game. When I said, ‘Look at his face’, I had the feeling that he had an expression like a schoolboy who had just scored his first goal for his school team. It was wonderful.”

Others in attendance included Summerbee and Tony Book, the captain of the 1968 title-winning team.

Former Liverpool and Scotland midfielder Graeme Souness was also present, as were former City players Joe Royle, Asa Hartford, Peter Barnes, Alex Williams and Micah Richards.

Tributes were paid at the service that reflected his life at City, his time in the game and in business, and from his family. The address was given by the Ven David Sharples, Archdeacon of Rochdale.

Book, 89, said: “He was a top man. They don’t come any better. He was great in the dressing room, marvellous to be around. It’s very sad.”

Williams, who played in goal for City in the 1980s, spent 33 years in the club’s community department before retiring earlier this year.

He said: “Francis Lee was brilliant. He had Manchester City at heart. He came to us from Bolton and took like a duck to water.

“A brilliant man – he loved the club and supported the club when we needed him.

“We’ve got our neighbours across the city who have their trios and ours was brilliant too – Lee, Bell and Summerbee. They’ll never be forgotten at Manchester City.”

Pep Guardiola dedicated Manchester City's 2-0 EFL Cup semi-final win over Manchester United to club great Colin Bell.

Former City and England midfielder Bell died on Tuesday after a short illness, aged 74.

City's players wore retro shirts bearing Bell's number eight before kick-off at Old Trafford, where a minute's silence was observed.

When the action got underway, an absorbing contest at odds with a dour 0-0 draw between the sides in the Premier League last month ensued, with City prevailing thanks to second-half goals from John Stones and Fernandinho.

"It's for him and, of course, for his family," Guardiola told Sky Sports in a post-match interview which he conducted wearing a t-shirt featuring Bell's likeness.

"This person helped to build something special for this club that doesn't have many, many trophies in the cabinet. But that is not important.

"What is important is the legacy that players provide from the past and some of these players in the future. That is the club we have now.

"It is an incredible victory for us to beat United away and be in another final.

"But especially today, it is for him. Absolutely."

City might be considered to have "many, many" EFL Cups if they are able to claim a fourth in a row against Tottenham in April's final.

Guardiola praised his players for a notable upturn in form of late after they followed up Sunday's swashbuckling 3-1 win over Chelsea in impressive fashion, despite Scott Carson and Cole Palmer taking the number of positive COVID-19 tests among his squad to eight since Christmas Day.

"You are frustrated when you play bad. When the team don't run, don't help, don't celebrate every defensive action," he said, rejecting the suggestion he was unhappy after a goalless first half.

"The team is ready. That is why we came here with an outstanding performance.

"We suffered a little bit in the second half because we were tired after the game at Stamford Bridge. They had two more days off to rest but when a team has the mentality to do it we achieve something incredible.

"I know the Carabao Cup is not the Champions League but four times in a row reaching the final is incredible. I am so impressed by the quality of this team."

As Manchester City's players huddled around the centre circle in number eight shirts to pay a poignant pre-match tribute to Colin Bell, it occurred a Pep Guardiola team might never have been so fittingly dressed.

England international Bell, widely revered as the finest player in City's history, passed away after a short illness on the eve Wednesday's 2-0 Manchester derby win the semi-final of the EFL Cup.

Bell, according to the loud and often repeated refrain of the Kippax Stand at City's old Maine Road home, was the greatest inside forward that the world had ever seen.

A technically gifted all-round midfielder, somehow simultaneously graceful and powerful, Bell thrived in those dangerous pockets between winger and centre-forward to cause maximum damage in Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison's celebrated City teams of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The inside forward had long gone out of fashion before Pep Guardiola ushered in his era of "free eights". From Xavi and Iniesta, through Thiago Alcantara and Toni Kroos to David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, City's former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss delights in filling his side with such players.

During Sunday's swaggering 3-1 win over Chelsea, De Bruyne was joined in the line-up by Phil Foden, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva. That quartet of playmakers probably would have resumed duties together at Old Trafford had Silva not been suspended.

After paying tribute to City's eternal eight, Guardiola's team of number eights got to work. Where the league fixture on this ground a month ago was as stodgy as the pitches Bell graced in his heyday, the pop and fizz to the early passing was much more in "Nijinsky's" image.

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