His death was announced by Chelsea, where he was regarded as one of the club's all-time greats.
Bonetti's path to fame between the sticks began with Worthing FC, who were quick to pay their respects. "Rest in peace Peter Bonetti, who began his career here in Worthing, and has sadly died at the age of 78," said a club statement.
"Peter had an illustrious career, making 729 appearances for Chelsea and winning the World Cup with England. Everyone at Worthing sends our deepest condolences to his family."
A statement from Chelsea said: "Our former goalkeeper had been suffering from long-term illness. All at Chelsea wish to send our heartfelt and deepest condolences to Peter’s family and friends.
"Bonetti was a goalkeeping superstar of the 1960s and 1970s. Small for his position on the pitch but with an aura of glamour, he was technically innovative and incredibly plucky. The Cat, as he was widely known, was the reassuring security among many mavericks in a golden era for Chelsea.
"He was the last line of defence during some of the truly great games. The image of our injured goalie and his superhuman attempts to thwart the opposition in the 1970 FA Cup final replay, 50 years ago this month, is one of the heroic images of that famous match, one that captivated a record TV audience of over 28 million viewers in the UK.
"By then Bonetti was one of the keystones of the Blues side that had emerged under Tommy Docherty’s management but was polished by Dave Sexton. Most of that team, Chelsea fans were proud to say, emerged from the club’s youth scheme."
"Like his future team-mate Peter Osgood, Bonetti was recommended to the club for a trial by one of his family writing in, in his case his mother. He made his Chelsea debut aged just 18 and appropriately for a great goalkeeper, from that day onwards he never really looked back."
He was born in Putney but did most of his growing up and learning football outside of London, on the Sussex coast. Following his successful Chelsea trial, he started on the same day as Bobby Tambling, Terry Venables and others who would establish themselves in the Swinging 60s side.
In 1966 Bonetti was Chelsea’s one representative in the England squad at the World Cup on home soil, but with Gordon Banks the first choice and injury-free throughout, he remained unused by Alf Ramsey.
The Cat was voted runner-up in the Footballer of the Year award for 1969/70 for the consistently high standard of his displays over the whole season.
Chelsea added: Peter Bonetti’s position in the pantheon of Chelsea footballing gods is unassailable. He was the Cat who broke the mould, defied the odds, drew the gasps, earned the cheers and got the cream. All in front of an adoring Stamford Bridge."
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