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Manchester still dotes on George Best
Amlan Chakraborty | August 07, 2007 16:37 IST
Last Updated: August 07, 2007 16:41 IST
Maradona good, Pele better; George Best!
Slight exaggeration in the popular saying notwithstanding, it's not only Northern Ireland that emptied its heart and showered unbridled love on its prodigal son George Best, the pop star in boots.
Two years since Best succumbed to alcoholism in a London [Images] hospital, every blade of the grass at Old Trafford's immaculately manicured turf is still seeped in memory of one of the greatest footballers who trod on them.
Rather, contemporary sport world's most photographed prima donna remains conspicuous by his absence at Old Trafford, which seems to have simply disowned him.
In contrast, the Best aura simply does not fade. It only grows as Manchester finds it a way to atone for the iconic winger's unceremonious farewell some three decades back.
It was Mannchester United scout Bob Bishop, who discovered the slight 15-year-old, who had been rejected by his local club.
"I think I've found you a genius," read the telegram to their legendary manager Matt Busby. The rest, as people say, is history.
One hundred seventy eight goals in 466 appearances, including six in one match, and life came a full cycle for Best, every inch a showman dubbed the fifth Beatle for his long hair, handsome looks and celebrity lifestyle.
Alcoholism and indiscipline joined hands to ruin his career and the same club that doted on him showed him the door in 1974.
Stints at Fulham, in America, Scotland, and Australia followed but Best was clearly not the player he was at Old Trafford. The magic was on the wane and eventually gambling, womanising and alcoholism dropped early curtains on a glorious career.
Post-retirement, Best appeared as a soccer pundit with a channel but discovered old habits die hard. His alcoholism got many a manifestation -- public drunkenness on television, convictions for drunk driving, assault on a policeman or domestic violence. The monster had gone out of control and a liver transplant further complicated things.
The same hedonist who once bragged "I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered," resembled a tragic hero from the Theatre of Dreams as he pleaded "Don't die like me" and departed the scene on November 25, 2005.
Photographs: Getty Images