Best on the brink

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The Independent Football

George Best is "coming to the end of the long road of his ill-health", his doctor Professor Roger Williams said today. "His hours are numbered now."

Doctors warned family and fans of George Best to prepare for the worst today after the football legend suffered a "really bad night".

Doctor Akeel Alisa, one of the medical team treating Best at the private Cromwell Hospital in London, said: "We must be prepared for the worst."

He said: "George has had a very bad night. He's very, very ill. I think we must all prepare ourselves for the worst.

"George is a friend not just a patient. It's been a very emotional day. "

His agent Phil Hughes was also downbeat about his condition.

Mr Hughes said: "The doctors said he had a really bad night. We'll know more later today."

The former Manchester United and Northern Ireland star had a controversial liver transplant in 2002 after his existing liver failed following years of alcohol abuse.

Best, 59, who ignored pleas to stay off the booze after the operation, was admitted to hospital on October 1 suffering from a flu-like infection.

His health deteriorated rapidly when he developed a kidney infection but he then rallied and his condition was thought to be improving until the early hours of Friday when he suffered a severe setback.

He developed a lung infection and was put back on a ventilator in intensive care but remained alert.

However, his condition worsened again on Tuesday night.

Best's father Dickie, 87, and other members of his family have been at his bedside.

Professor Roger Williams, who has been overseeing his treatment, told reporters outside the hospital yesterday: "The situation is that he didn't have a very good night, had a disturbed night and had to be put back on the ventilator."

He added: "He remains very ill, there is a bit more of a problem with bleeding than we had before."