George Best (22 May 1946 – 25 November 2005) is widely acknowledged to have been one of the greatest football players of all time, mainly remembered for his halcyon days with Manchester United FC. He played for the Northern Ireland football team, but their lack of success during the peak of Best's career meant that, regrettably, he never was able to display his unique talent on the world stage. Best had a rare combination of pace, blistering acceleration, balance, two-footedness, goalscoring prowess and the ineffable ability to run through entire defences.
He played for United as a winger between 1963 and 1974, helping them to win the Football League Championship in 1965 and 1967, and the European Cup in 1968. He was named European Footballer of the Year and Football Writers' Association Player of the Year in 1968. In speaking to Man Utd TV in late 2005, Sir Bobby Charlton described Best's impact on the 1960s as "sensational". Indeed, Brazilian Pelé, often said to be the greatest player of all time, once called Best "the greatest footballer in the world". The great Diego Maradona regarded Best equally highly. Best's brilliance is often summed up in one sentence: Maradona good, Pelé better, George Best.
Best's lovable, cheeky image won him many fans, during his career and after, though his drunkenness and allegations of domestic violence meant that not everyone was so well disposed towards him. Nonetheless, news of Best's death led to tears on the streets of Belfast, before and during a funeral for which some
100,000 people turned out on a rainy day. Best had developed a drinking problem while still a player, and it contributed to his early retirement from top-level football. He was imprisoned in 1984 for drunk driving and assaulting a policeman and was unable to give up alcohol for any length of time. The condition of his liver deteriorated to the point where a transplant became necessary. The immuno-suppressive drugs given to prevent rejection of his new liver caused him to develop a serious kidney infection, which his doctors were unable to redress. In 2005, the infection caused him to fall into a coma. His final days were watched over by his father and other family members, and also by former football colleagues such as United's Denis Law. He died at the age of 59 and is buried in East Belfast.
At the age of 15, Best was discovered in Belfast by Manchester United scout Bob Bishop, whose telegram to United manager Sir Matt Busby read: "I have found a genius". His local club Glentoran had previously rejected him for being "too small and light".Best was subsequently given a trial and signed up by chief scout Joe Armstrong in 1961. He turned professional and made his debut for Manchester United in 1963 against West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford. He became world-famous at the age of eighteen when he scored three goals in a European Cup match against Benfica in 1966, and scored in United's European Cup final win against the same club in 1968.
He made 466 appearances for Manchester United in all competitions, scoring 178 goals (including six in one game against Northampton Town). Best was United's top scorer for six consecutive seasons. During this run he also topped the first division scoring charts in 1967-68 with 28 goals, remarkable for a player who was not an out-and-out striker. In 1974, the 27-year-old Best was sacked by United for excessive drinking and persistent failure to attend training sessions and matches. His last competitive game for the club was on 1 January 1974 against Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road.
His 'second team' after Manchester United is often considered to be Fulham F.C. (though he did play 9 more games at San Jose Earthquakes (NASL team) in the twilight of his career). Best had made a return to England after 'retiring' to the USA and still had his amazing skills, though he had lost his pace slightly. Best scored some amazing goals for The Cottagers and is particularly remember for tackling his 'old drinking mate' Rodney Marsh in a FA Cup game against Hereford United (despite both being on the same team!). Best stated later in life, that he enjoyed his time most while at Fulham F.C. despite not winning any honours.
Over the next decade, Best drifted between several football clubs including spells in America, Scotland and Australia. He played for three clubs in America: Los Angeles Aztecs, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and San Jose Earthquakes (NASL team); he also played for the Detroit Express on an European tour. At San Jose Earthquakes, the club was owned by Milan Mandaric with whom George developed a close relationship over the years. Throughout 2004 George was often seen with Milan at the club he ran, Portsmouth FC. In 1983 George finally retired from the game, at the age of 37. His last games as a professional were with third division A.F.C. Bournemouth.
He was capped 37 times for Northern Ireland, scoring nine goals. He played mainly as a winger and was known for his dribbling skills and passing. On 15 May 1971, Best scored the cheekiest and arguably the most famous 'goal' of his career at Windsor Park in Belfast against Gordon Banks. The English goalkeeper was about to kick the ball downfield and dropped the ball towards his left foot. However, Best had anticipated the move and, with his right boot, knocked the ball up in the air behind Banks. The famous duo both scrambled towards the net but Best outpaced Banks and headed the ball into the empty goal, to the delight of the home supporters. His effort was disallowed for ungentlemanly conduct by a referee whose back had been turned away from the incident, but even this untimely and incorrect intervention did not spare Banks the embarrassment of having been outwitted.
Best was considered briefly by manager Billy Bingham for the 1982 World Cup. However, at 36 and with his footballing days largely behind him it was understandable that he was not selected in the Northern Ireland squad, thereby denying him the one chance of playing in front of a global audience. In view of his home country's relative lack of success, he was an advocate of an all-Ireland team.
Diego Maradona has frequently named Best as his all-time favourite player  and Pelé once stated that Best was the best player he ever saw play. He also named him as one of the 125 best living footballers in his 2004 FIFA 100 list.
In 1988, a testimonial match was held for Best at Windsor Park, Belfast. Amongst the crowd were Sir Matt Busby and Bob Bishop, the scout who discovered Best, while those playing included Ossie Ardiles, Pat Jennings and Liam Brady. Best scored twice, one goal from outside the box, the other from the penalty spot.
In 1998, Best became a football pundit on Sky Sports.
In November 2004 Best agreed to join FA Premier League club Portsmouth F.C. as a youth coach, citing his desire to get involved in football again.
Best promoted Cookstown Sausages in commercials on Ulster Television, and print advertisements in the local press.
While at Manchester United, Best's talent and showmanship made him a crowd and media favourite. He was dubbed "the fifth Beatle" for his long hair and looks, but his celebrity lifestyle led to problems with gambling, womanising and alcoholism. Best often told the story of a bellboy who entered his hotel room with breakfast in the late 1970s. Seeing Best in bed with Mary Stavin, the current Miss World, a magnum of champagne and several thousand pounds of cash won from a night's gambling, the youth exclaimed, "George, where did it all go wrong?"
Best opened two nightclubs in Manchester, in the late 1960s, Oscar's and the other called Slack Alice's (which later became 42nd Street Nightclub). He also owned fashion boutiques, in partnership with Mike Summerbee of Manchester City. He also opened "Bestie's Beach Club" (now called "The Underground" after the London subway system) in Hermosa Beach, California U.S.A. and lived in the city throughout the 1970's, 80'sand 90's. He was able to achieve some "treasured anonymity" there.
British group The Fall, fronted by Mark E. Smith, mentioned Best in their 1983 football-themed single, "Kicker Conspiracy," with the line: "In the Blues Club/ George Best does rule," in reference to Best's popularity even amongst Manchester City (the "Blues") fans. Smith has said that even though he is a City fan, he often went with mates to watch United just so he could see Best play.
In 1984, Best made a fitness video with Mary Stavin called Shape Up And Dance.
Indie group The Wedding Present's 1987 debut album was titled George Best and featured him on the cover (pictured, right).
The Belfast Oi Punk band Runnin' Riot have a song titled "Alcoholic Heroes" written about George Best.
George was the subject of many books and wrote his life story a number of times. "The Good, The Bad and The Bubbly" co-written with Ross Benson was the first to touch on his alcoholism but it was "Blessed" and "Scoring At Half Time" written with Roy Collins and Martin Knight respectively shortly before his death where he revealed most about himself.
A picture of George is seen on the front cover of the 1994 album Definitely Maybe by Oasis. This is mainly due to the fact that then rhythm guitarist Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs was a Manchester United fan.
Best was very witty and is notable for many famous quotes and soundbites he made, including:
The eldest child of Dickie and Anne, Best was brother to Carol, Barbara, Julie, Grace and Ian.
Best was married twice:
According to the Daily Mirror, Best had two illegitimate daughters. 
In 1984, Best received a three-month prison sentence for drunk driving, assaulting a police officer and failing to answer bail. He spent Christmas of 1984 behind bars and turned out as a player for Ford Open Prison.
On 2 February 2004, Best was convicted of another drunk driving offence and banned from driving for 20 months.
In September 1990, Best appeared on an edition of primetime BBC chat show Wogan in which he swore and was clearly drunk. He later apologized and said this was one of the worst episodes of his alcoholism.
In 2002, he had a liver transplant. In 2003 he was the focus of much criticism when, despite his transplant, he openly drank white wine spritzers and was accused of being selfish and having no regard for other people's feelings. Also in 2004, his second wife Alex Best appeared as a contestant on the reality television programme I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! and alleged that Best was responsible for domestic violence towards her during their relationship.
Illness and death
Best continued to drink, and was sometimes seen at his local pub in Petersfield, Hampshire. On 3 October 2005 Best was admitted to intensive care at the private Cromwell Hospital in London, suffering from kidney problems caused by the side-effects of immuno-suppressive drugs used to prevent his body from rejecting his transplanted liver. On 27 October, newspapers stated that Best was close to death and had sent farewell messages to his loved ones. Best's condition improved at first, but deteriorated again in November. On 20 November the British tabloid News of the World published a picture of Best at his own request, showing him in his hospital bed, along with what was reported to be his final message: "Don't die like me". Of the many tributes left to George near his hospital bed, one was a signed football which read: "From the second best player in the world". It was signed by Pelé, the man many people consider to be the greatest player ever to play the game.
In the early hours of 25 November 2005 Best's treatment was stopped; he eventually died, after a battle that lasted longer than doctors had expected, at 13:06 GMT from a lung infection and multiple organ failure.  . His father, four sisters, brother, son and agent were all at his bedside, as was his former United team-mate Denis Law.
The FA Premier League announced that a minute's silence would be observed before all Premiership games to be held over the weekend of his death, however, this tradition was ignored at many grounds, in favour of a minute's applause in his honour. Many football supporters travelled to pay tribute to Best outside Manchester United's stadium Old Trafford, Windsor Park in Belfast and at Belfast City Hall and outside his father's home where they left signed shirts, scarves, flowers and messages. The city of Belfast subsequently announced that those mementos left by fans are to be collected and given to children's charities. George's father Dickie condemned the theft of some football memorabilia left by fans at the Best home in the Cregagh estate. 
Best's funeral was one of the largest that Northern Ireland has ever seen, often regarded as the closest thing to a state funeral that Northern Ireland has seen. Best's body left the family home at Cregagh Road, East Belfast, shortly after 10 a.m. UTC on Saturday, December 3. The cortege then travelled the short distance to Stormont. The route was lined with around 100,000 mourners. There was an 11 a.m. service in the Grand Hall relayed to around 25,000 mourners inside the grounds of Stormont, and live on BBC One, UTV, RTÉ, ITV News, BBC News 24, Sky News, Sky Sports News, EuroNews and MUTV. Afterwards, Best was buried beside his mother Annie in a private ceremony at the hill-top Roselawn Cemetery, overlooking east Belfast. Bryan Appleyard's reporting of the funeral and remarks about the various members of the Best family in The Sunday Times  led to calls by the Belfast Telegraph for his sacking.
Belfast City Airport has been renamed George Best Belfast City Airport as a tribute to the East Belfast footballing legend. The official new name and signage was unveiled to a gathering of the Best family and friends at the airport on 22 May 2006 which would have been his 60th birthday. After Best's funeral, his family contacted the airport, indicating that they felt that this would be the most appropriate memorial. Their spokesperson commented:
Not everyone in Northern Ireland considered the renaming of the airport to be appropriate. Whilst his prowess as a footballer is almost universally acknowledged, many people - in Northern Ireland and beyond - believe that his drunken antics, caused by his alcoholism, and his treatment of women meant that such posthumous recognition was undeserved.
In March 2006, Flybe, the airport's biggest operator, named a Dash-8 plane G-JECL The George Best. The specially branded Q400 aircraft was used to carry Best's family across to the Manchester memorial service for Best. 
On the 60th birthday anniversary, 22 May 2006, at special gala dinner held in George's honour at Belfast City Hall, an auction was held to raise funds for the George Best Foundation. One of the items featured was the 'Genius' egg from the world famous jewellers Fabergé . The new piece designed by Sarah Fabergé, the great granddaughter of Carl Fabergé, the world famous designer of the first Fabergé Eggs and Royal Court Jeweller for the Russian Royal family, has been commissioned by George Best Carryduff MUSC. All profits from the sale of the eggs will be donated to the George Best Foundation .
For the first anniversary of his death, Ulster Bank issued one million commemorative five pound notes. 
Appearances and goals for each club
International: 1964-1978 - Northern Ireland: 37 games, 9 goals