HIS sublime skills and free-scoring flair convinced many that he is the greatest player to have ever worn the dark blue of Scotland.
But now Denis Law has put the boot into the state of modern-day football.
In a glittering career the Aberdonian netted more than 250 goals and became the only Scot to be named European Footballer of the Year.
However, the Manchester United legend claims the sport he loves is being spoiled by continual cheating by over-aggressive players and referees who are too timid to do anything about it.
The 73-year-old claimed top-level games now frequently resemble “rugby matches” and lashed out at multi-million-pound compensation packages which are routinely awarded to sacked managers.
Law, who scored a record 30 goals in 55 appearances for Scotland, said: “The one thing that really gets me down, the thing that makes me want to change the channel if I’m watching a match, is players grasping at each other’s shirts during free kicks and corners.
“The only players that can use their hands legally are goalkeepers.
“It’s like a rugby match nowadays and referees don’t do anything about it.
“If officials started booking players and then sending them off, that would get the managers to tell their players to stop it.
“The game of football is beautiful, but these players are spoiling it.”
The former Huddersfield Town striker cited Celtic’s Champion’s League clash with Italian giants Juventus, which took place earlier this year, as a prime example of a spectacle ruined by cynical and deliberate fouling.
He said: “One boy almost pulled a Celtic player into the net.
“Uefa have people behind the goal but they aren’t doing anything about it.
“In any sport, if you get away with something you will keep doing it. It then filters down.”
The Scot, who has statues erected in his honour in Manchester and in his home city, felt players were setting a terrible example to young fans.
He said: “Kids watching their heroes behaving like that is not good for the game.
“However, Uefa and Fifa, the European and world football authorities, just seem to be turning a blind eye to it.”
The striker, named Scotland’s most outstanding player of the past 50 years by the SFA in 2003, also set his sights on the compensation culture that has become established in the modern game.
He said: “When I retired in the summer of 1974 there wasn’t a great deal of money on the management side of things. I enjoyed playing, but I wasn’t into coaching people.
“But, as the years went on, I thought maybe I could have got a job as a manager somewhere, done a poor job, got sacked and got a few million pounds in compensation.
“Some managers today get more money when they get the sack than they would if they had won the treble.”
The former striker with Italian team Torino also criticised the culture of dismissing underperforming managers hastily and pointed out that Sir Alex Ferguson, the most successful manager of the modern era, came close to being sacked when he first arrived at Manchester United.
He said: “They knew that for Fergie to break up the control Celtic and Rangers had over the Scottish game with Aberdeen he must have something.
“But it didn’t look good for him during his first three or four years at United. He could quite easily have got the sack, but the club realised that it takes a bit of time to build success and the rest is history.”
However, the veteran charity campaigner admitted that he does admire some aspects of the highly lucrative modern game, stating: “Apart from being a little envious of the money, the thing I would have loved is to be playing on the pitches they have today.
“I was at Old Trafford recently and it was just unbelievable. The thought of the likes of Bobby Charlton and George Best playing on that. When we played we were just playing on mud by November and you couldn’t pass the ball along the ground.”
Fifa’s top medical official Dr Michel d’Hooghe agrees that top-level football is being tarnished by deliberate foul play.
He said: “Some players come on the field simply to provoke injuries. I simply do not accept the excuse ‘It’s a man’s game’.”
Law, who now lives in Manchester, represented Scotland in the 1974 World Cup in Germany and still holds the record for scoring 46 competitive goals for Manchester United in a single season in 1963-64.