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Last Updated: Friday, 25 November 2005, 15:57 GMT
Tributes flood in for George Best
A fan placing a floral tribute to George Best
George Best inspired fans with his mercurial football skills
Tributes to football icon George Best, who has died aged 59, have been paid by people from all walks of life.

Flowers, candles and Manchester United scarves have been left outside Old Trafford, where fans made an impromptu shrine to the star.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said Best was "one of the greatest footballers the UK has ever produced".

Tory leader Michael Howard said the star "had an extraordinary talent and brought joy to millions".

Best's family thanked the "thousands upon thousands of people" who had sent cards and e-mails of support.

"We have taken comfort from them, especially during the long hours," the family said shortly after his death.

You will never be forgotten
George Best fan

On Friday morning floral tributes started to arrive outside the private hospital in west London where Mr Best was being treated.

A message on one bunch of flowers read: "Dear George, Thanks for giving me so much joy, you were my hero as a child and as an adult.

"You will never be forgotten."

Alongside the flowers were several Manchester United supporters' scarves and a football shirt bearing the name Best and the number 7.

The club said it would open a book of condolence on Saturday at Old Trafford.

Alex Best, who was married to the footballer from 1995 to 2004, said: "George was the love of my life.

"He was a unique and talented person who made a lot of people very happy.

George Best had an extraordinary talent and brought joy to millions
Michael Howard
Conservative leader

"I will always miss him."

Mr Blair, in Malta for a Commonwealth Head of Governments meeting, said: "We all know that George Best was probably the most naturally gifted footballer of his generation, one of the greatest footballers the UK has ever produced.

"I never actually saw him live but I watched a lot of the television footage of him and I remember some of the games he played in at the time.

"And anyone who has seen him as a football fan will never forget it."

'Extraordinary talent'

Mr Howard said: "George Best will always be remembered for the enormous pleasure he gave to football fans around the world.

Candle tribute to George Best
Tributes were paid by politicians, sportsmen and fans

"Sir Matt Busby was right to say that he had 'found a genius'... My condolences go to his family."

Expressing sympathy for the Best family, Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy said: "George Best's astonishing talent delighted everyone who saw him play football.

"His death is very sad. Everybody's thoughts must be with his family and close friends; but we shall all mourn his passing."

Anti-poverty campaigner and musician Bob Geldof said Best was the "first pop star footballer".

"He was just this gorgeous young, talented kid and he got a lot of money every week, and could not deal with it," he told the ITV News Channel.

Former BBC director general Greg Dyke, a life-long Manchester United fan, said: "Forget about the rest of his life, he was the most wonderful player, he could do things that no one else could do.

"He was just a talent that comes once a century."

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