Tributes have been paid from across football to the former England forward Trevor Francis, Britain’s first £1m player and the scorer of a European Cup-winning goal for Nottingham Forest, after he died at the age of 69.

Birmingham City, the club where Francis began his professional career and spent 15 years as a player and later a manager, described him as “the player everyone wanted to see”. Forest called Francis a “true legend who will never be forgotten”.

A statement on behalf of the Francis family said that he had had a heart attack at home in Marbella on Monday morning. Francis, who went into management initially as a player-manager, also had a base in Solihull. The statement on behalf of the family said: “This has come as a huge shock to everybody. We are all very upset. He was a legendary footballer but he was also an extremely nice person.”

John McGovern, who captained Forest to the European Cup on two occasions, said Francis was “not big-headed, despite his price tag”. McGovern added: “He was one of the quickest players I have ever played with, he was in a different class. He was not an outspoken character. But if something needed to be said, he would say it. He would always speak up if he felt it was right.”

Peter Shilton, who played with Francis for Forest and England, described Francis as “a wonderful gentleman” and Gary Lineker, a former England teammate, said: “Was a pleasure to work alongside him both on the pitch and on the telly.” Chris Waddle, signed by Francis for Sheffield Wednesday, said: “So sorry to hear the sad news … he was a lovely man and such great player and thank you so much for bringing me to swfc.”

Nottingham Forest paid £1.18m – more than double the previous British transfer record – to buy Francis from Birmingham in February 1979 but Forest’s manager Brian Clough claimed the fee was £999,999 to take pressure off the player. “When I get on the pitch, I just have to forget about it and get on with playing,” Francis said at his unveiling. His goal against Malmö secured the European Cup in his first season and he was part of the squad that retained the trophy a year later, although he was injured for the final.

Trevor Francis celebrates after scoring for England against Czechoslovakia at the 1982 World Cup.

Trevor Francis celebrates after scoring for England against Czechoslovakia at the 1982 World Cup. Photograph: Colorsport/Shutterstock

Born in Plymouth, Francis joined Birmingham as a 15-year-old and became the club’s youngest debutant in 1970 aged 16 – a record eclipsed by the now Real Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham in August 2019. Francis, whose playing career took him to the United States with Detroit Express, joined Manchester City from Forest. More than 10,000 City supporters travelled to Stoke City to witness him score twice on his debut in September 1981.

Francis played in Italy for Sampdoria and Atalanta, then for Rangers before joining QPR, where he spent less than a year as a player before becoming player-manager. He had a stint as player-manager at Sheffield Wednesday – after a period there as a player – before he took full-time manager roles with Wednesday, Birmingham and Crystal Palace. He led Wednesday to an FA Cup and League Cup final, and Birmingham to a League Cup final. He led Wednesday to an FA Cup and League Cup final and Birmingham to a League Cup final. Nigel Pearson, the Bristol City manager who played with Francis at Wednesday, said: “I still reference him when talking to players, with his mid-stride toe-poke finish. I played with him when he was 37 but he was still a class performer.”

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Francis scored 119 goals in 280 league appearances for Birmingham before his historic move to Forest. He played 52 times for England from 1977 to 1986, featuring at the 1982 World Cup, where he scored twice. He retired in 1994, shortly before his 40th birthday, having made 632 appearances and scored 235 goals. He later worked as a pundit for Sky Sports and BT Sport.

Birmingham’s biggest rivals, Aston Villa, described Francis as “a true legend of the game, especially in the Midlands but also across the football world”. Chris Kamara, who worked with Francis at Sky, said: “RIP Trevor the first [one] million-pound player who always looked a million dollars.”

The Football Association said it was “deeply saddened” and would commemorate his career at an England fixture. Birmingham have opened a designated area at St Andrew’s for tributes to be placed.