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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 June 2005, 10:37 GMT 11:37 UK
Best: Decline of the golden boy
George Best at Staines police station in Surrey
Best's life has lurched from one drama to the next
When overseas journalists are picking the best players of all time, George Best is often the only player from Britain and Ireland to get a look in.

He was arguably second only to Pele in his footballing skill but his career was cut short by his lifestyle and addiction to alcohol.

In 2002, his years of drinking took their toll and he had a liver transplant.

After the life-saving operation, the star, now 59, pledged to give up alcohol but started to drink again.

I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars - the rest I just squandered
George Best

His transplant had prompted questions about whether alcoholics should get donor livers, and Best's doctor warned that continued drinking would be catastrophic.

In February 2004, Best was banned from driving for 20 months after pleading guilty to a drink-driving charge.

He claimed he had been trying to drive himself to a health farm to tackle his problems.

His marriage to his former air hostess wife Alex ended in a "quickie" divorce in April 2004.

Couple's fights

In October 2003, Best sold his European Footballer of the Year award but failed to get reserve price for his 1967-8 Football Writers' Footballer of the Year prize, as he tried to raise money to buy a house in Corfu.

1946: Born May 22 in Belfast
1963: Makes debut for Man Utd
1964: Northern Ireland debut
1965: United win the league championship
1968: Voted English and European footballer of the year
1970: Sent off for Northern Ireland for throwing mud at ref
1972: Quits United aged 26

Best, who worked as a pundit on Sky's Soccer Saturday show, has even caused controversy with his views on the game, particularly when dismissing the abilities of David Beckham in 2000.

In June this year he was arrested over allegations that he had indecently assaulted a teenage girl and hit a woman - the charges were later dropped.

The boy from Belfast would want to be remembered for his amazing feats as a player.

Best combined dishevelled good looks and supreme talent with a rock 'n' roll lifestyle that made him the first in what has since become a long line of players whose antics have become not just tabloid entertainment, but big news.

The growth of television - Best made his debut as a 17-year-old the year before the BBC began its weekly Match of the Day show - meant he was rocketed to stardom in a way never experienced by those before him.

Arguably the most naturally gifted footballer of his generation, Best is famous for squandering his skill and failing to achieve his full potential.

He revelled in the limelight but, as the first of the new superstars, found himself unable to cope with the temptations littered across his path.

"I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered," he famously said of his lifestyle.

Lost promise

Best walked out of top class football in 1972 aged just 26.

Many of his fans will forever rue his lost promise, the promise which led a scout to telephone Manchester United manager Sir Matt Busby with the message - "I think I've found a genius" after seeing him play as a 15-year-old.

George Best
George Best left the game he loved aged just 26

Busby promptly signed Best, who had learnt his craft dribbling tennis balls through the terraced streets of Belfast.

He was 17 when he made his First Division debut for United against West Bromwich Albion in September 1963.

Two years later, he helped United win their first championship for eight years - and it was followed by another in 1967.

A year later, Best helped United become the first English team to win the European Cup.

The world seemed at his feet, but only four years after his famous night at Wembley he shocked the football world by announcing his retirement.

He made a brief but unsuccessful comeback with United then followed spells with Stockport, Fulham, Hibernian, Los Angeles Aztecs and San Jose Earthquakes before finally retiring in 1983 after a stint with Bournemouth.

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