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George Best: The man who worked hard, played gracefully

Last week two Barcelona stars hit the headlines for being out at a casino in the early hours of the morning 24 hours before match day. It caused uproar. Of course it didn’t stop culprit Lionel Messi from demolishing City on Tuesday night.

For George Best, a trip to the casino 24 hours before a game and then terrorising defences was the norm. It’s why we worshipped him. Why he was a man we loved both on and off the pitch. We could only dream of having the style, grace, and swagger he had. And then there was what he did on the pitch.

So why is it that today a footballer being photographed in the early hours is such a sin? The media pretty much demanding for them to rot in the reserves forever.

Of course Best wasn’t completely averse to being dropped, Sir Matt Busby did multiple times and wasn’t exactly fond of the Northern Irishman’s lifestyle, even asking him to settle down with a nice girl, but he let him flourish despite his rock and roll lifestyle.

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The fifth Beatle spent much of his time in bars, casinos, and in bed with beautiful women, often all at once. Today that’s an anecdote which wouldn’t happen, if a player wanted to play cards and lie in bed with a beautiful woman, he’d probably pick up his iPad and type in Canadian Royal Vegas Casino, order room service and have done with it. But one night in Birmingham created the iconic Best tale.

Returning to his hotel room at 4am with Miss World and £25,000 in winnings, Best was greeted by an Irish porter with a bottle of champagne and three glasses. He said to the United legend, “Mr Best, can I ask you something that’s been bothering me for 20 years.

“Where did it all go wrong?”

As a player it never caught up with him. He retired at 27 still an unbelievable talent. Or if it did affect his performances it was unnoticeable. Of course in the long run it affected him greatly, but that was his choice. On the pitch it didn’t matter.

So why are players treated like school children by the media like they are up way past their bed time? Messi performed. Best performed. In the early days when Giggs was a livewire he did it both on and off the pitch. In a world of Twitter and camera phones, we’re too interested in what players do in their personal lives. As long as they perform on a Saturday afternoon, shouldn’t we love them all the same?

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