Chris Murphy of CNN asked two questions in his treatise of a Manchester United legend, George Best. Murphy asked: “George Best: Soccer’s ultimate playboy?” “The Best there ever was?”
I agree with Murphy that George Best was widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time. Off the pitch, Murphy contends, the Northern Irish man, Best, was also one of the sports first “playboys”.
One of soccer’s ultimate mavericks George Best died 10 years ago. Ex-Manchester United star and legend, Best, won two English league titles and one European Cup. He was known for his womanizing and a long battle with alcoholism.
George Best was born on 22 May 1946 and passed away on 25 November 2005. Best was a Northern Irish professional footballer who played as a winger for Manchester United. In 1968 he won the European Cup with United, and was named the European Footballer of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year.
Best began his club career in England with Manchester United at Old Trafford. His story is close to magical of sorts. According to reports, the scout (former United scout, Bob Bishop) who spotted his talent at the age of 15 sent a telegram to the then Manchester United manager, Matt Busby, which read:
“Boss, I think I’ve found you a genius.”
Bishop was right and Best would go on to be dubbed by Pele (real name: Edson Arantes do Nascimento) as the “greatest player in the world.”
After making his debut for United aged 17, he scored 179 goals from 470 appearances over 11 years, and was the club’s top goalscorer in the league for five consecutive seasons.
Murphy further adds that the pop star lifestyle that saw the Northern Irishman christened “the fifth Beatle” or 5th Beatle (in reference to the Beatles, the hit 4-man British pop band), came at a cost and he lost a lifelong battle with alcohol a decade ago.
“He was a free spirit on and off the pitch and the first of football’s glamor pusses,” Jimmy Armfield, who played against Best numerous times for his side Blackpool, told CNN Sport on the 10th anniversary of his death.
“The aura around him added to his game. He was playing in the swinging sixties (60s) and his game lent itself to the media. I think he reveled in that side of it.”
Armfield, who played 43 times for England between 1953 and 1966, agrees the playboy side of Best’s character only adds to his legend.
Photo: The United Trinity statue of George Best (left), Denis Law (centre) and Bobby Charlton (right) outside Old Trafford.
One of George Best’s most infamous lines was: ”In 1969 I gave up women and alcohol – it was the worst 20 minutes of my life.”
Murphy wrote that later, a waiter delivering champagne to Best’s hotel room was confronted with a bed that supported thousands of pounds in casino winnings, and the current Miss World.
He asked: “Mr Best, where did it all go wrong?”
In 1971 George Best absconded before United’s game with Chelsea in west London to spend the weekend with rising actress Sinead Cusack in north London instead.
He opened a nightclub, several restaurants and a fashion boutique.
Best unexpectedly quit football at the age of 27 and played his last game for Man United in 1974.
Photo: George Best on his sick bed, shortly before he passed away.
As his popularity, fame and stardom escalated, George Best slept with some Miss Worlds. Well, they said he was incredibly handsome, monumentally famous and successful and girls threw themselves at him – lucky guy.
Best’s rise from a Belfast kid to stardom will be documented in an upcoming film about his life produced by Stephen Evans, whose credits include “The Madness of King George.”
George Best’s story will never cease to amaze me.
That he was all part of Manchester United for eleven (11) good years at Old Trafford – is the most thrilling. When I was a teenager in my country, Nigeria, George Best was so famous in Nigeria (amongst football-loving teen boys) that many of my friends whose names were George were called or nicknamed G-Best.
Up Man U!