George Best (May 22nd, 1946 – November 25th, 2015)
It is hard to believe that it is now 10 years since the death of the legendary George Best. On the #Football pitch the boy from Belfast was the genius of his time, the 60s equivalent of the current megastars such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. #Manchester United and Northern Ireland fans will be forever grateful that he graced their stadiums with his extraordinary talent.
Off the pitch he lived life to the full as well and the stories about his fabled lifestyle are the stuff of folklore.
Greatest of all time?
When football fans are asked who they rate as the best player that they have ever seen in the game, many place Best up there with other former greats such as Pele and Maradona. Pele is often quoted as stating that he believed Best was indeed the greatest player in the world at his peak. Of modern-day players given their recent exploits, only Messi and Ronaldo perhaps deserve similar comparison.
There was also little protection for the flair players such as himself in his playing days, with defenders only too keen to stop him at all costs, if they could get close enough that is. Referees were not as keen as they are today in handing out cautions and red cards, and Best had the scars and bruises to prove it.
Best exemplified the era.
Yet the man was something of an enigma. With the lads from Liverpool storming the music charts of the time, Best was often labelled as the ‘fifth Beatle’. His good looks and sense of style fitted right in with the rock and roll times and the decadence of the ‘Swinging Sixties’. He could party with the best of them which sadly took its toll on his health in later years, with a liver transplant a tragic consequence of the excessive drinking.
Proud Irishman and adopted Mancunian
Had he still been living, he would no doubt have been delighted that his countrymen from Northern Ireland will grace the European Championship finals in France next summer. He was a proud Irishman and represented his country on 37 occasions, scoring nine times.
His record at Manchester United was impressive to say the least.
Two-footed with the gift of wonderful balance, his stunning performances are remembered vividly by his adoring fans even now. His dribbling ability draws comparison with Messi, yet he also had to contend with the inferior quality of the pitches and the ball itself in his heyday.
Goals and honours with United
Nevertheless his wizardry shone through and between 1963 and 1974 in 361 appearances for the Reds, he netted 137 goals. Not too shabby for a player recognised as a winger or attacking midfielder.
His crowning glory on the pitch was perhaps to bring the European Cup back to Old Trafford in 1968, including a wonderful goal in the final itself. Further honours came his way in the shape of the Ballon d’Or and England’s Footballer of the Year award.
Nomadic later career
That his senior career totalled more than 600 appearances is a reflection of a slightly nomadic lifestyle on the playing front during the rest of the 70s and into the 80s. He was even something of a trendsetter by including brief spells in America with teams in Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale and San Jose.
Liaison with Miss World
A love for the high life and the ladies was exemplified by a story recounted numerous times down the years. Upon seeing Best entertaining Miss World in his hotel room, with casino winnings spread all over the bed, a wide-eyed bellboy was cited as saying to George “where did it all go wrong?”
So much of his life actually went very right and fittingly we remember the mercurial genius all over again on the anniversary of his death. #Celebrities