London: Wednesday marks 10 years since the death of George Best, the charismatic former Manchester United and Northern Ireland winger who won the Ballon d’Or in 1968.
A quick, brave and dazzlingly skilful player, Best was renowned for his playboy lifestyle away from football and died aged 59 in November 2005 following a long struggle with alcoholism.
He was honoured in May 2008 when a statue of Best, Bobby Charlton and Denis Law — United’s ‘Holy Trinity’ — was unveiled outside Old Trafford.
Here’s a collection of quotes that capture Best’s on-pitch genius and off-pitch extravagance.
In his own words
* “If I’d been born ugly, you’d never have heard of Pele.”
* “I used to dream about taking the ball round the keeper, stopping it on the line and then getting on my hands and knees and heading it into the net. When I scored against Benfica in the 1968 European Cup final I nearly did it. I left the keeper for dead, but then I chickened out. I might have given the boss a heart attack!”
* “I used to go missing a lot — Miss Canada, Miss United Kingdom, Miss World...”
* “In 1969 I gave up women and alcohol. It was the worst 20 minutes of my life.”
* “I was born with a great gift, and sometimes with that comes a destructive streak. Just as I wanted to outdo everyone when I played, I had to outdo everyone when we were out on the town.”
* On David Beckham: “He can’t kick with his left foot, he can’t head a ball, he can’t tackle and he doesn’t score many goals. Apart from that he’s all right.”
* “They’ll forget all the rubbish when I’ve gone and they’ll remember the football. If only one person thinks I’m the best player in the world, that’s good enough for me.”
What they said about him
“I think I’ve found you a genius.”
— Telegram sent to United manager Matt Busby by the club’s scout Bob Bishop, who spotted Best playing on Belfast’s Cregagh estate
“It seems impossible to hurt him. All manner of men have tried to intimidate him. Best merely glides along, riding tackles and brushing giants aside like leaves.”
— Former Manchester City manager Joe Mercer
“The closest I got to him was when we shook hands at the end of the game.”
— Roy Fairfax, who marked Best when he scored six goals in an FA Cup win against Northampton Town in 1970
“He has ice in his veins, warmth in his heart and timing and balance in his feet.”
— Former Northern Ireland captain Danny Blanchflower
“MARADONA GOOD; PELE BETTER; GEORGE BEST”
— Old Trafford banner from Best’s heyday
“George Best was one of the most talented players of all time and probably the best footballer who never made it to a major world final.”
— Franz Beckenbauer
“George inspired me when I was young. He was flamboyant and exciting and able to inspire his team-mates. I actually think we were very similar players — dribblers who were able to create moments of magic.”
— Diego Maradona
“We had our problems with the wee fella, but I prefer to remember his genius.”
— Former United manager Matt Busby