George Best Fact File
A brief insight in to the profile and facts of the legendary footballer George Best. From his early days, career highlights and his untimely death.
George Best (sometimes Geordie or Georgie Best) (22 May 1946 – 25 November 2005) was a Northern Irish professional footballer who played as a winger for Manchester United and the Northern Ireland national team. In 1968 he won the European Cup with United, and was named the European Footballer of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year.
Born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Best began his club career in England with Manchester United, who had spotted his talent at the age of 15. He went on to see success with United, scoring 179 goals from 470 appearances over 11 years. His playing style combined pace, acceleration, balance, two-footedness, goalscoring and the ability to beat defenders. Best unexpectedly quit United relatively early in 1974 at age 27, but returned to football for a number of clubs around the world in short spells, until finally retiring in 1983, age 37. In international football, he was an automatic choice when fit, being capped 37 times and scoring nine goals from 1964 to 1977, although the team’s performance never allowed his talent to be displayed in the finals of a European Championship or World Cup.
Such was Best’s talent and charisma that he became one of the first celebrity footballers, but his subsequent extravagant lifestyle led to various problems, most notably alcoholism, which he suffered from for the rest of his adult life. These problems affected him on and off the field throughout his career, at times causing controversy. He often said of his career that “I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars - the rest I just squandered”. After football he spent some time as a pundit, but his financial and health problems continued into his retirement. He died in 2005, age 59, due to complications from the immunosuppressive drugs he needed to take after being controversially granted an NHS liver transplant in 2002. Best was married twice, to two former models, Angie Best and then Alex Best. His son, Calum Best, was born in 1981 from his first marriage.
Before he died, Best was voted 16th in the IFFHS World Player of the Century election in 1999 and was one of the inaugural 22 inductees into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002; in 2004 he was also voted 19th in the public UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll and named by Pelé as one of the 125 best living footballers in the world. After his death, on what would have been his 60th birthday, Belfast City Airport was renamed the George Best Belfast City Airport as a “fitting and permanent tribute to his footballing brilliance.” According to the BBC, Best was remembered by mourners at his public funeral held in Belfast as “the beautiful boy” [with a] “beautiful game”. A common description of his place in football history is summed up by the quote “Maradona good; Pelé better; George Best.