October 30th, 2012
George Best will go down as one of the most gifted and talented players ever to grace the beautiful game. His time for Manchester United in particular captured the imagination, as the Northern Irish attacker showcased extraordinary individual skill and played his part in European and domestic triumph for the Old Trafford outfit.
However, Best was also loved off the pitch, with the winger’s personality and wit almost as legendary as his considerable abilities. Here are what some of the great player’s colleagues, opponents and the game’s experts thought of him:
“I think I’ve found you a genius.” – The telegram sent to Manchester United by talent scout Bob Bishop, who discovered a 15-year-old Best playing for Cregagh Boys’ Club.
“I’d give all the champagne I’ve ever drunk to be playing alongside him in a big European match at Old Trafford.” – Fellow United legend Eric Cantona on Best.
“He’s not George Best, but then again, no-one is.” Commentator Clive Tyldesley.
“The closest I got to him was when we shook hands at the end of the game.” Northampton player Roy Fairfax, who had been marking Best when he scored six goals in an 8-2 FA Cup win for Man Utd in 1970.
“Shellito was taken off suffering from twisted blood!” United team-mate Pat Crerand after Best had given Chelsea full-back Ken Shellito a torrid time.
“He was able to use either foot – sometimes he seemed to have six.” Sir Matt Busby on Best.
“The only thing I have in common with George Best is that we come from the same place, play for the same club and were discovered by the same man.” Norman Whiteside on his legendary countryman.
“He had the lot: balance, pace, two good feet, he was brave, strong and a good header of the ball. Pele wasn’t as gifted as George Best and I would definitely put George above Johan Cruyff because he had more heart.” Jonny Giles
“From 1964 to 1969, he was the best player in the country.” Denis Law, who was no slouch himself.
“George Best was the greatest player in the world.” Pele, considered by many as the world’s greatest, admired Best.
“As a Manchester United fan I always saw George Best as a football legend and it was a proud moment for me when I wore the same number seven shirt as him. He is one of the greatest players to have ever graced the game and a great person as well.” David Beckham on following in Best’s footsteps.
“He was a fantastic player. Everybody at United regarded George as being one of the greatest of all time.” Sir Alex Ferguson.
“There are times when you want to wring his neck. He hangs on to the ball when players have found better positions. Then out of the blue he wins you the match, and you know you’re in the presence of someone special.” Paddy Crerand, Manchester United team-mate, 1970.
“He has ice in his veins, warmth in his heart and timing and balance in his feet.” Danny Blanchflower, former Northern Ireland captain, 1970.
“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.” Joe Mercer, Manchester City manager, 1969
“With feet as sensitive as a pickpocket’s hands, his control of the ball under the most violent pressure was hypnotic. The bewildering repertoire of feints and swerves… and balance that would have made Isaac Newton decide he might as well have eaten the apple.” Hugh McIlvanney, sportswriter, Observer.
Kind words indeed but all fitting for Belfast’s finest.