George Best: ten years on from the death of Manchester United's golden boy

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Football News

For those who worry that time flies - and I can hardly believe it myself - we are fast approaching the tenth anniversary of a footballer described by Pele as the best player in the world: the late George Best.

Perhaps it was the demise of one of my favourite jockeys, Pat Eddery, last week that got me thinking about other sports stars who had succumbed to the demon drink.

Best was a talent like no other. A player who had amazing balance and the ability to take on and beat defenders, he had pace and the ability to shoot equally well with both feet - an attribute lacking in too many modern day players.


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Spotted at the age of 15 by a Manchester United scout when Best was playing in Belfast, the telegram message back to then manager Matt Busby simply said: "I’ve found you a genius." How true that turned out to be.

Sadly, as is the case with so many geniuses, there were flaws and Best's film star and flamboyant lifestyle - he was often referred to as the fifth Beatle - led to problems mostly associated with women and drink.

The striker himself said: "I’ve spent a lot of money on women, drink and fast cars – the rest I squandered."

Best made 470 appearances for his beloved Red Devils over an eleven year period, scoring 179 goals.

An automatic selection for Northern Ireland when he was fit, he scored 9 goals in 37 appearances for his country. Captain of Germany’s winning 1974 World Cup team, Franz Beckenbauer, said that Best was probably the best player who never made it to a major world final.

Having said that, he won the English league title, European Cup and European Player of the Year at the age of 22.

Unfortunately, it was mostly downhill from there. In short spells with many clubs, both at home and abroad, he never rediscovered the form for which he was famous. Training came second to the ladies and the drink and he retired from football in 1983, aged 37.

Best died, aged 59, on November 25, 2005, and it is said 100,000 mourners lined the route the funeral procession took from his family home in East Belfast to Stormont, where his funeral was held in the Grand Hall in the company of 300 invited guests.

The service was relayed to 25,000 mourners in the Stormont grounds.

Best was happy that Pele had called him the greatest player in the world and said that it "was the ultimate salute to my life."

Ten years on. Continue to rest in peace, George.

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Manchester United

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