They Said It

They said it: George Best

George Best smiles
© Getty Images

If there was a list to be made of football's colourful characters, George Best must surely be worthy a place in its upper echelons. Indeed, El Beatle as he was christened by the Portuguese press after a 5-1 defeat of Benfica in Lisbon, was the first 'pop-star' footballer of his generation.

Thanks to his prowess on the pitch, Best is arguably the greatest player ever to grace the red of Manchester United and never to play in a FIFA World Cup™. His talent on the field combined with his boyish good looks and irresistible charisma ensured he was one of the household names of world football in the 1960s and 1970s.

After winning two league titles and one European Cup at Old Trafford, his decision to leave Manchester United in 1974 at the age of just 27 brought an end to his career as a top-class player as his wayward lifestyle inevitably took its toll on his body, and the patience of team-mates and managers alike.

But to many who saw him play at his peak, George really was the best. The man who unearthed his talents, Sir Matt Busby, was in no doubt of his magic. "He was able to use either foot - sometimes he seemed to have six," he recalled.

Best's 138 goals in 361 games for United, combined with his loveable, cheeky image, helped establish him as an unforgettable legend. And before his passing in 2005, he had also become renowned for his amusing sayings.

But perhaps the most memorable quote surrounding Best did not come from himself. The ultimate tale tells of the night when a waiter delivering champagne to the Irishman's hotel room saw thousands of pounds of casino winnings and the current Miss World also present. The scene prompted the legendary question: "Mr Best, where did it all go wrong?"

However, of the vast volume of words written and spoken about George Best, the most insightful came from the lips of the man himself.

"I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered."
Best on his spending.

Sue Barker: "What happened next?"
* "Well, there's no point in asking me. I can't remember what happened last night!"
Appearing on the BBC's quiz show *A Question of Sport

"I set off. I beat one player, then another. By the end I had beaten five of them in the space of ten yards. I didn't know how I did it and still don't ... When I see it on television, it still dazzles me."
On what many consider his greatest goal, for San Jose Earthquakes against Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

"He cannot kick with his left foot, he cannot head a ball, he cannot tackle and he doesn't score many goals. Apart from that he's all right."
On David Beckham

"If I'd been born ugly, you'd never have heard of Pele."
Best on how his career choices affected his footballing prowess

"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."
*Best on his personality

*"I used to go missing a lot: Miss Canada, Miss United Kingdom, Miss World."
George Best on his celebrity lifestyle

"I once said Gazza's IQ was less than his shirt number and he asked me: "What's an IQ?"
George Best on Paul Gascoigne

"I was probably the first footballer ever to have a pop-star profile and my agent was right when he said we could put my name on stair rods and sell them to people in bungalows."
Best on his commercial value

"I'd have to be superman to do some of the things I'm supposed to have done, I've been at six different places at six different times."
Best on accusations against him

"My one big regret is that I didn't play on for ten more years."
Best on retiring young

"By the time I was 25 I felt the team was in decline and alcohol was taking over. For three years I was out every night and gambling became a drug, too."
Best on his decline at United

Esquire magazine:* "Is there anything about your life that you would like to change?"*
Best: I took a penalty against Chelsea in 1971 and Peter Bonetti saved it. I wish I'd sent it the other way".
Best on his biggest regret in life

"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!"
A cheeky George Best

"There have been a few players described as the new George Best over the years, but this is the first time it's been a compliment to me."
Best on Cristiano Ronaldo

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