Quotes on: George Best

A God on the pitch, but haunted by his demons off it.

Those who watched George Best during the first 6 years of his time at Manchester United, when his genius, pure and uncompromised by vices, was on display every week — unlike during his drawn out decline at a multitude of North American clubs that were treated to the final, faded glimpses of his once-powerful talent — say he is the most naturally talented British footballer that ever lived, and one of the greatest of all time.

George Best in action during the match
George Best in action, beating players, bewitching defenders, sending audiences around the world into rapturous applause.

A central part of a United side that invoked memories of the original fallen Busby Babes thanks to its swash-buckling football and promises of European glory that were eventually fulfilled, Best thrilled audiences with his trickery, bravery, power, and energy. An unrelenting barrage of attacks would be guaranteed every time Best got the ball, and he twisted and turned past hapless defenders, leaving them muddy on the ground. He took on entire teams on his own, his unnatural talent complemented by his immense bravery, and self-confidence that bordered on arrogance. He was a cultural icon, known as much for his dashing looks and locks of hair as his scintillating ability with a ball at his feat. But that should never be allowed to diminish the force of his legacy. At his peak, George put on some of the best performances of individual talent seen in England, and even though the embers of his talent had been dimmed by alcohol issues by the age of 27, his 474 senior appearances for Manchester United shall be remembered forever as possibly the most exciting ever seen on English shores. Best robbed himself, and all of us, of possibly the greatest natural talent we have ever seen, but his seemingly unavoidable submission to his inner struggles shall never take the shine off the one of most exciting footballers of all time, and the crown jewel of Manchester United and British football.

Here are some of the best quotes about George Best, the Belfast Boy and United icon who stood alongside, and even above, the likes of Pele, Eusebio, and Johan Cruyff for a few fleeting years that shall never be forgotten. By his own admission, it is likely Best would have left his contemporaries and other greats in the dust had he been allowed to end his career the way he had started it. Also, given that Sir Bobby Charlton, his team-mate and fellow member of Manchester United’ Holy Trinity has said about Best: “He had so much natural ability, he would have played till he was 35 or 36 without any difficulty.” It truly does make you wonder.

“Boss, I think I’ve found you a genius.” — Bob Bishop, Man United scout reporting on Best to manager Matt Busby

“George Best was a diamond. With a little flaw there.” — Harry Gregg

“A thing of beauty, and we didn’t get it all. He didn’t get it all either.” — Harry Gregg

“George was one of the most gifted players in the history of football. Garrincha, Pele and Beckenbaur, George is up there with them. The word hero is overused, but in George’s cases it is very apt. He was a genius on the pitch. It was his domain. George was a bright and shining star that was to burn out too quickly.” — Harry Gregg

“George had the heart of a lion.” — Barry Fry, former team-mate at Man United

“He could run as quickly with the ball as he could without it.” — Norman Hunter

“He wasn’t slow coming at you, he was like an express train, and you never knew which way he was going to go. He could check, and he could go right, he could go left.” — Sir Bobby Robson

“He was such an unbelievably gifted player. He had quality and control that was unparalleled, really.” Sir Bobby Charlton

“He could control the ball with his left foot, his right foot, it was not a great problem to him. He could turn on a six-pence. He had unbelievable vision, he could tell everything that was happening around him, he knew exactly where people were, and that gave him all the time that he needed to actually express him.” — Sir Bobby Charlton

The most naturally talented and exciting footballer of all time, Best played with a smile on his face, and brought hundreds of thousands of football fans to their feet with his delightful trickery.
The most naturally talented and exciting footballer of all time, Best played with a smile on his face, and brought hundreds of thousands of football fans to their feet with his delightful trickery.

“Manchester United’s glorious history has been created by people like George Best. Anyone that witnessed what George Best could do on the pitch wished they could do the same.” — Sir Bobby Charlton

“At the time when he first got in the team, no one had seen his like before: someone who was so small and tough, who would go into tackles, but also had the ability to turn people inside out and beat anyone he liked. George was as good as anyone you will see; he used to embarrass players time and time again. [ . . . ] It was paradise watching George play football.” — Sir Bobby Charlton

“He had a most fantastic ability to play football. He was going out on the pitch to play in front of a 100,000 people as if he was going out to play on the streets of Belfast.” — Mike Summerbee, former Manchester City player and friend of Best

“He was the best player I’ve ever seen. When I used to see him on the TV back home, the next thing I wanted to do was go outside and play on the street with a ball. He just had that kind of impact on me.” — Sammy McIlroy, former Man United team-mate

“In terms of ability he was the world’s best footballer of all time. He could do almost anything – technically, speed, complete mastery of not only the ball but his own body. You could saw his legs away and he still wouldn’t fall because his balance was uncanny, almost supernatural. Heading ability, passing ability, I mean it goes without saying the dribbling – he could beat anybody in any way he chose. For fun he’d play a one-two off the opponent’s shins.” — Patrick Barclay, football journalist

“A beautiful player. He could score from whatever angle, right side, left side, centre. He was just a marvellous player.” — Denis Law

“From 1964 to 1969 he was the best player in the country.” — Denis Law

“He was able to use either foot – sometimes he seemed to have six.” — Sir Matt Busby

“He had a fantastic, cat-like balance. He was a will-o’-the-wisp, you were never comfortable when he had the ball and you were playing against him, because he would always beat you.” — Alan Ball

“He was quick, two-footed, beautifully balanced. He could hit long and short passes with equal precision, was swift and fearless in the tackle and he reintroduced the verb ‘to dribble’. He was as imaginative and whimsical in midfield as he was economical and deadly given a chance at goal.” — Michael Parkinson, British TV presenter and friend of Best

“George’s game was an amalgam of superb almost unnatural balance, spirit and delicacy of touch that stayed no matter how fast he moved. Mesmerising deft feet with an acrobatic balance, unlimited inventiveness and nerveless insouciance.” — Hugh McIlvanney, sports journalist

“There may have been more talented footballers than George Best. But some people are blessed with something you just cannot manufacture. Call it charisma, call it magnetism, call it what you like, but they were simply stars – superstars, megastars. In truth, there isn’t a word big enough to do them justice. The Northern Irishman was a genius, undoubtedly. His ability to run with the ball and change direction at speed, his balletic movement, his goalscoring instinct were absolutely first-rate.” — Jimmy Greaves

“George was the ultimate showman. His attitude was ‘why simply beat a defender when you can torture him and entertain your public too?’ Why not dump a full-back on his backside when you were capable of dumping Miss World? He was brave, too. They kicked lumps out of him but he always got up and beat them again.” — Jimmy Greaves

“They described him as a winger or an attacking midfielder but he enjoyed a free role and the freest of spirits. He was the first true modern footballer – the one every mediocre millionaire of the modern game should get down on their knees and thank.” — Jimmy Greaves

“There are rare players, touched by God and the Devil in equal measure, you cannot judge by mere honours nor statistics. Sometimes when you were with him it was easy to forget that you were in the company of an immortal.” — Jimmy Greaves

“What he had was unique, you can’t coach it.” — Johan Cruyff

“I think if you talk about (the best players in) Europe, you talk about five or six and if you talk about his qualities he’d always be in there. It was a short career but if you go back to the basic qualities he was exceptional.” — Johan Cruyff

“George Best was one of the most talented players of all time and probably the best footballer who never made it to a major world final.” — Franz Beckenbauer

“Quick and intelligent. There are no players like him now and never will 
be. [ . . . ] He had fantastic skill and imagination, was quick and was a great dribbler too.” — Eusebio

“George inspired me when I was young. He was flamboyant and exciting and able to inspire his team-mates. I actually think we were very similar players – dribblers who were able to create moments of magic.” — Diego Maradona

The Best, and
The Best, and “the world’s greatest player”, according to Pele.

“I often mentioned George Best as the best player in Europe.” — Pele

“The great football critics said that because of his technical skill, he was like a Brazilian athlete who danced the samba with the ball at his feet. George Best, until today is a footballer without comparison and his technical skills will never be forgotten.” — Pele

“George was unique, the greatest talent our football ever produced – easily.” — Sir Alex Ferguson

“He was a fantastic player. Everybody at United regarded George as being one of the greatest of all time.” — Sir Alex Ferguson

“It’s one thing to say young boys are going to be good players, it’s a totally different thing to say they’re going to be superstars [ . . . ] But right from the start, people knew that George had got something a bit special about him.” — David Sadler, former Man United team-mate

“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 number seven shirt as him. He is one of the greatest players to have ever graced the game and a great person as well.” David Beckham

“George was the best footballer I’ve ever seen. [ . . . ] He was just a special talent. I’ve never seen anyone with the ability to beat people, to dribble, an amazing footballer.” — Harry Redknapp

“George Best was just the best. The greatest. He knew players went out onto the pitch to hurt him. They couldn’t get near him.” — Harry Redknapp

“It seems impossible to hurt him. All manner of men have tried to intimidate him. Best merely glides along, riding tackles and brushing giants aside like leaves.” — Joe Mercer, Manchester City boss (1969)

“George was a superb player, one of the very best I attempted to kick in 21 years.” — Ron “Chopper” Harris, former Chelsea defender

“There are times when you want to wring his neck. He hangs on to the ball when players have found better positions. Then out of the blue he wins you the match, and you know you’re in the presence of someone special.” –Paddy Crerand, Manchester United team-mate, 1970

“He had the lot: Balance, pace, two good feet, he was brave, strong and a good header of the ball.” — Johnny Giles

“He was the finest player I ever played with or against. I treasure my memories of him even though on occasions he made me look rather foolish.” — Pat Jennings

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