George Best’s career was both a triumph and a tragedy. He was maybe the most technically gifted and imaginative player of all time, up there with Johan Cruyff and Diego Maradona, yet he never played in a World Cup. He won two league titles and the European Cup with Manchester United, but left Old Trafford at the age of 27 and never stayed with another team for more than two seasons. He was the first footballer to lead a full-on celebrity lifestyle, but maybe the most ill-prepared to do so.
You could even argue that the alcoholism that eventually killed Best in 2005 also prevented him from fulfilling his potential as a player. But I prefer to just forgive the man his flaws and enjoy the things Best accomplished in a stellar career. Below is a list of 15 reasons to celebrate the brilliance of George Best.
1. He scored the greatest lobbed goal of all time
Not impressed? Watch again. And look how little space he’s working with.
2. He could dribble in a straight line …
and still be impossible to tackle.
3. He scored the world’s greatest disallowed goal
This took England keeper Gordon Banks by surprise, but the ref deemed it dangerous play.
4. His face is on money
One million £5 notes were issued by The Ulster Bank in 2006, one year after Best’s death.
5. He once made an announcer say, “That’s the greatest soccer goal I’ve ever seen’”
Best scored this wonderfully weavy goal for the San Jose Earthquakes in 1981.
6. He dominated a European Cup final
Best terrified the Benfica defense as Manchester United won the 1968 European Cup Final, 4-1. And this wasn’t even his finest performance against Benfica. In a 1966 European Cup game, he scored twice and played so well that the Portuguese press dubbed him “El Beatle.”
7. He inspired the invention of PlayerCam
In 1970, long before Sky Sports introduced PlayerCam to the Premier League and 36 years before Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, Germany filmmaker Hellmuth Costard trained eight 16mm cameras on Best, and Best alone, for an entire game. The film, Football as Never Before, shows Best scoring one and creating one as Manchester United beat Coventry City. Video of the entire film is above, but it’s set to play as Best receives the ball and scores.
8. He once scored a double-hat-trick
Final score was Manchester United 8-2 Northampton, with Best scoring six.
9. He was high-pressing before Jurgen Klopp was even born
He scored this goal against Chelsea in 1965.
10. He has an airport named after him
11. He didn’t go down …
even if you were trying very hard to take him down.
12. He won the 1968 Ballon d’Or
13. He was kidnapped in 1965
But not really. It was a Manchester College of Commerce students’ “rag week” (meaning charity) stunt.
14. He inspired this surprisingly catchy song
Released in 1970, it’s called “Belfast Boy” and it’s by Don Fardon.
15. He was ALWAYS trying to entertain the crowd
Get a look at that no-boot pass then feast your eyes on a few dribbles.