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George was simply the best
November 26, 2005 09:20 IST
British newspapers paid tribute to former Manchester United great George Best on Saturday as they offered their last respects to a footballing genius.
The Sun newspaper ran a front page headline saying: 'Biggest Funeral Since Di" as they claimed half a million people would line the streets of his home city of Belfast next Friday.
"The outpouring of grief will be the biggest since more than a million people lined the streets of London in 1997 for (the funeral of Princess) Diana," said the tabloid.
He will be buried alongside the grave of his mother Ann.
Most papers focused on his amazing skills on the pitch with The Guardian front page showing a picture of a dapper Best in 1966 and the headline "Life's game, as played by George Best".
"The way Best played football was certainly the stuff that dreams are made of... Tales of his deeds on the football pitch will endure as long as the game is played in these islands."
Best died on Friday in a London hospital of multiple organ failure aged 59 after a lifetime of heavy drinking.
The Daily Express devoted the whole of its back page to a picture framed in black of the long-haired Irishman with the simple dedication: "George Best 1946-2005".
Inside, under the headline "Simply the Best", the paper wrote: "We shall never see his like again, for he had everything. Bestie was as near the perfect player as football ever saw. He wasn't a bad bloke either."
On Saturday, there will be a minute's silence at English league matches as a mark of respect for the Northern Ireland winger and a book of condolence opened at Old Trafford.
Celtic fans will follow the continental tradition by applauding Best for 60 seconds before their match.
"Remember him today at 3pm" read the back page of the Daily Mirror over a picture of Best walking away in his distinctive red Manchester United shirt adorned with the famous number 7.
The tabloid paper quotes England captain and former United midfielder David Beckham saying: "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 No7 shirt as him.
"He's one of the greatest players to have ever graced the game and a great person as well."
The Daily Telegraph obituary said: "George Best... was the outstanding British footballer of any generation; the mercurial... forward possessed a genius that bears comparison only with the trio of modern masters, Pele, Johann Cruyff and Diego Maradona".
To that list might be added Portugal's Eusebio, who was on the losing side against Best in the 1968 European Cup final. The Benfica forward said: "George Best was the best player in the world, not just England, and a good friend of mine".
The Times obituary remembered the, "Footballing genius who swapped the beautiful game for the playboy life", while the Daily Mail pleaded: "Do Not Mourn, Celebrate Him".
"To watch George Best play football was to fall in love with the game. This was his legacy: Beyond price," it added.
The Independent's front page headline read: "He Made Football Beautiful", while the paper's leading article summed up his colourful life on and off the pitch:
"...with his extravagance, his indulgence, his addictions, his gambling, his womanising and his booze, George Best was an Icarus for our times".