George Best

From Academic Kids

George Best (born May 22, 1946 in Belfast) is a former footballer from Northern Ireland. He played for Manchester United F.C. between 1963 and 1974, where he won two League championships in 1965 and 1967, and one European Cup in 1968, the year he was named European Footballer of the Year and Football Writers' Association Player of the Year.

Best made 466 appearances for the club in all competitions, scoring 178 goals (including six in one game against Northampton Town). 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 devastatingly accurate passing. He was named one of the 125 best footballers ever in Pel's 2004 FIFA 100 list.

Playing alongside greats such as Denis Law and Bobby Charlton 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 good looks, but his extravagant celebrity lifestyle led to problems with gambling and alcoholism. Best often tells a story of a bellboy who entered his hotel room with breakfast in the early 1970s. Seeing Best drunk, in bed with the current Miss World, with a magnum of champagne and several thousand pounds of cash won from a nights gambling, the youth exclaimed, "George, where did it all go wrong?" In 1973, the 27-year-old Best was sacked by Manchester United for excessive drinking and persistent failure to attend training and matches. Over the next decade, Best drifted between several clubs including Fulham, Stockport County, Dunstable, Hibernian, Los Angeles Aztecs, San Jose Earthquakes and finally Bournemouth until he retired from the game in 1983 at the age of 37.

In 1984, Best received a three-month prison sentence for drink driving, assaulting a police officer and failing to answer bail. He spent Christmas 1984 behind bars and turned out as a player for Ford Open Prison. In 1990, he appeared on a prime time BBC chat show in which he swore and was clearly drunk. He later apologised and said this was one of the worst episodes of his alcoholism. In 2000, 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. His wife Alex appeared as a contestant in a 2003 reality television programme making allegations about their relationship. On 3 January 2004, Best was convicted of another drink driving offence and banned from driving for 20 months.

In November 2004 Best agreed to join FA Premier League club Portsmouth F.C. as youth coach, citing his desire to get involved in football again.

Best is widely considered, at least in the U.K., to be one of the most skilful players ever to have played the game. His talent would almost certainly have been recognised more on the world stage had his national team not been a relative "minnow". Along with Paul Gascoigne, Best is held up by UK football fans as an example of the dark side of the game, where a prodigous playing talent is squandered by managers and agents too quick to ignore players' personal problems.

See also

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Preceded by:
Florian Albert
European Footballer of the Year
Succeeded by:
Gianni Rivera
Preceded by:
Jack Charlton
Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year
Succeeded by:
Tony Book and Dave Mackay

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