Soccer Fanatic

George Best was born on 25th May 1945 in Northern Ireland and was one of the finest players of his era. He is survived by one son Calum who he had with his former wife Angie. He achieved iconic status and his genius on the pitch was unquestionable.

Easily the greatest player from Northern Ireland, George Best is fondly remembered as one of the greatest football players of all time. He was blessed with natural ability, agility, pace as well as been incredibly skilful with the ball at his feet. More importantly, he had a brilliant eye for goal.

Depending on which football authority you listen to, Best is more often than not quoted in the Top 20 players ever to play the sport. World Soccer magazine, a respected monthly publication has Best at seventh position in the greatest players of the 20th Century.

Unfortunately for the football world, Best ended his career at Manchester United when he was at his peak. He was just 27 years old when he moved away from Old Trafford. He went on to play for a host of other clubs but was never quite the same player again.

Best was known for his playboy lifestyle, no doubt a factor in his rapid football decline once he had left the Red Devils.

He died at the end of 2005 from lung infection as well as multiple organ failures brought on by years of alcohol abuse.

The Early Years

Despite rejection from his local Northern Irish Club Glentoran, Best was snapped up by Manchester United at the age of 15. He made his debut for the Red Devils in the 1963/1964 season, aged just 17. Best scored the first of his 179 goals for the club in December in the same season. Matt Busby continued to include the winger throughout the season. He eventually played 26 games and netted six goals. The following season saw him become a first team regular at just 18 years of age.

Despite his success in the United Kingdom, Best was relatively unknown in the rest of Europe. This soon changed. It was his stunning display in the 1966 European Cup quarter-final against Benfica in Portugal that alerted the rest of the world to his undoubted talents.  Best scored two outstanding goals in a 2-all draw. The second goal in particular showed his incredible pace and skill.

Best continued to grow in stature as a pacy, skilful winger with the rare ability to score goals. The 1966/1967 season began to cement both himself and United as a real force in European football. He helped himself to a brace against United’s traditional rivals, Liverpool. The fact that he scored these at Anfield endured him even more to the United fans. He also scored a hat-trick against Newcastle.

European Glory

The 1967/1968 season was to be the crowning glory for not only Manchester United but George Best as well. United, who lost a number of promising players in the Munich air disaster of 1958, had rebuilt under Matt Busby. They found themselves contesting a European Cup semi-final against arguably the greatest team on the continent, Real Madrid.

In the first leg at Old Trafford, Best secured a victory for United with a stunning strike from just inside the box. A cross from the left found the Northern Irishman unmarked. In a split second Best had swung back his left leg and hit an unstoppable shot past the Madrid goalkeeper. His strike earned United a valuable 1-0 victory. In the return leg in Spain, Madrid players, knowing that Best was United’s biggest threat, kept him under wraps for much of the game. He still managed to assist Bill Foulkes goal that not only levelled the game at 3-3, but allowed United to win 4-3 on aggregate.

United faced Benfica in the final played at Wembley. With the game poised at 1-1 after normal time, Best put United into the lead in extra-time with perhaps his greatest ever goal. Fielding a flick on from a long ball up field, the winger showed tremendous skill to firstly control the ball, beat an onrushing defender and finally dummy the Benfica keeper before calmly slotting the ball home. His goal knocked the stuffing out of the visiting Portuguese side who conceded two more for United to win 4-1.


Best was capped 37 times for Northern Ireland between 1964 and 1977. He managed nine goals for his country including one against England in a 3-1 loss in 1970.

Perhaps his most famous international “goal” however was never credited. Again, this happened in a match against England. Best managed to kick the ball from Gordon Banks, the English goalkeepers’ hands, beat him to the loose ball and score. The goal, although perfectly legal according to the rules, was disallowed.

Best won his final cap in 1977, but by then he was a player on the decline. He was briefly considered for the 1982 World Cup by Northern Ireland manager Billy Bingham but was never called up.

Awards and Honours

As United surged towards the European Cup in the 1967/1968 season, Best’s massive contribution towards their success did not go unnoticed.

Football Writers Association Footballer of the Year - 1968

Before the final of the European Cup against Benfica, Best won the prestigious Football Writers Association Footballer of the Year award. At that point, the 22-year-old was the youngest-ever winner. He was an obvious choice however, not only for his displays for United in Europe but also his tremendous domestic form as well. His 28 goals in 41 appearances made him the joint top-scorer in the English First Division. This goal tally was made even more impressive by the fact that he was played as an out and out winger for most of the season.

Ballon d’Or – 1968

Best was not only recognised domestically for his incredible season that year. He was nominated for, and won the Ballon d’Or, the most prestigious award in European football. It is given to the individual considered the best player on the continent for that specific season.

Best beat out the likes of Franz Beckenbauer and fellow United star, Bobby Charlton for the honour.

In 1968, at the tender age of 22, George Best was not only the best player in Europe and England, but he had also won the English First Division and was the joint top goal scorer. A truly incredible achievement for someone who Glentoran, his hometown club had rejected for being “too small and light”.

Ballon d’Or, Third Place – 1971

Best was nominated for the Ballon d’Or in 1971. This time, however, he had to be content with third place, losing out on the award to Johan Cruyff, who won, and Sandro Mazolla, the runner up.

Other Records

Perhaps Best’s most famous other contribution to the Manchester United cause were the incredible six goals he scored in an FA Cup fixture against Northampton Town in February 1970.

He scored a full house that day, using both feet as well as his head, including an incredible diving header for his fourth goal. The goal roundly remembered on the day however, was his sixth and last. Best, through on goal, managed to flummox Kim Book, the Northampton Town keeper so badly, that he ended up seated on his behind. Best then calmly placed the ball in the back of the net.  

Leaving Manchester United

Despite winning the European Cup in 1968, United could not quite ever reach those levels over the following years. Matt Busby retired at the end of the 1968/1969 season. This set United back as they lost a truly influential figure.

New manager, Wilf McGuinness could not get the same level of performance out of the players and United began to slide down the table. McGuinness was dismissed in December 1970, with Busby taking charge temporarily. Frank O’Farrell became United’s third manager in three years when he joined in 1971.

By this time, however, Best’s playboy lifestyle was in full swing. His disciplinary record worsened both on the field and off it. After announcing his retirement on numerous occasions, best played his last game for United on 1 January 1974. Tommy Docherty, who was the manager at the time, dropped Best from the team after he failed to turn up for training on three consecutive occasions.  

His United career had come to an end at the age of 27. He had played 470 games and scored 179 times.

Other Clubs

In the following years, Best played for many other clubs all around the world. In fact, up until his retirement from football in 1984, he had played for over 16 other clubs. This included stints in South Africa, the United States, Australia and Scotland and back in England where he turned out for Fulham and Stockport County.

Career Highlights

  1. 37 International Caps
  2. Scored 9 international goals
  3. Played for 11 teams including Manchester United
  4. Won the European Cup with Manchester United in 1968
  5. Won the league with Manchester United in 1965 and 1967
  6. Won football writers player of the year in 1968
  7. European player of the year 1968
  8. 25yrs after his career ended he was voted the Greatest British Sportsman of All Time by 1000 journalists and sports people. is a not for profit website aimed at promoting the best past and present footballers from around the world.