George Best – the name might not ring a bell to every football fan, but those who are old enough or have been following the game very closely, they will know what the name stands for. Arguably the greatest ever player never to have played in the FIFA World Cup, Best was a winger for Manchester United and Northern Ireland and perhaps one of those talents that had the potential to take over the world and become the greatest ever, if not for the harsh and wayward lifestyle that he followed.
Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Best was spotted at the young age of 15 years by Bob Bishop, a scout for Manchester United, who was in the country looking for talents for the club’s manager Matt Busby to build a young team around after the Munich Air Disaster saw United lose 8 first team players. When he saw the youngster playing in the streets with his friends, so mesmerised was Bishop that he immediately sent a telegram to England and Matt Busby, stating that he had found a genius for him. Busby didn’t wait for long and snapped up his services.
Best made his debut for The Red Devils at the age of 17 years against West Bromwich Albion in 1963. And although he was very young to nail down a regular spot in the first team, his precocious talents meant it was only a matter of time. And that is how it turned out to be and by 1965, George Best had become a household name and a fan favourite at Old Trafford for the Manchester United faithful. Best was perhaps the greatest show man to ever play football and during his dismantling of Portuguese giants Benfica in the quarter finals of the European Cup of 1966 saw him dubbed as The Fifth Beatle by the Portuguese media for his hairstyle.
By the time the European Cup of 1968 came along and led to the first European title triumph for United, Best was already a consensus best player in the world and the quote ‘Pele Good, Maradona Better, George Best’ many years after his retirement only went to cement his legacy. However, in spite of his precocious talents, Best was extremely wayward in terms of the way he lived his love and spent a lot of money on gambling, alcohol, women, being satisfied with only the best. He opened night clubs and boutiques and although he won the Golden Ball as the Best Player in Europe in 1968, his decline had begun.
After the retirement of Matt Busby, there was no strong enough personality to control Best at United and he ultimately left the club in 1974 at 27 years of age. Since then, he played for a host of teams, but the best was left behind and he failed to rediscover the form that made him the best player in the world ever again. His alcoholism ultimately brought his untimely death when he died of a liver disease in 2005 at the age of 59 years.