George Best, who died in November, 2005, was one of the most naturally gifted players in the history of football. Genuinely two-footed, quick and elusive, he was equally effective on the left or right flank and garnered worldwide acclaim for his technical ability and flair. Indeed, in his heyday in the mid to late Sixties, his celebrity transcended football, so much so that he was dubbed the ‘Fifth Beatle’.
Handsome, stylish and extremely well-paid, by ordinary standards, Best enjoyed a playboy lifestyle, of which he once said, ‘ I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.’ Sadly, though, Best suffered from lifelong alcoholism, which overshadowed his brilliant playing career, led to a controversial liver transplant in 2002 and, ultimately, resulted in his premature death, at the age of 59.
Born in Belfast on May 22, 1946, Best was scouted by Manchester United as a 15-year-old and made his first team debut against West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford on September 14, 1963. Two First Division titles, in 1965 and 1967, and a European Cup, in 1968, followed, but Best did not stay long at the top of the game.
In 1972, beset with problems with alcohol, which led to erratic form and behaviour, not to mention weight gain, Best announced his retirement, more than once, before changing his mind. Nevertheless, he failed to recover his previous level of brilliance and made his final appearance for Manchester United in 3-0 defeat by Queens Park Rangers on January 1, 1974. Still only 27, played for 11 different clubs, including Stockport, Fulham, Hibernian and Bournemouth, without any notabel succcess, before finally retiring in 1983.