George Best: From presidents to punters, he touched them all

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The Independent Online

From prime ministers to ordinary football supporters, the world paid tribute to the genius of George Best.

News that the Manchester United legend had succumbed to multiple organ failure yesterday prompted an outpouring of grief from fans, friends and family.

Tony Blair led the tributes, saying: "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."

Bertie Ahern, the Irish premier, described Best as "quite simply a football genius", sentiments echoed by Mary McAleese, the Irish President. "George Best was a wonderfully gifted sportsman whose skills on the football field dazzled a generation of soccer fans," she said.

Sir Bobby Charlton, a team-mate of Best's during his time at the club and a director at Old Trafford, said: "Anyone who witnessed what George could do on the pitch wished they could do the same.

"He made an immense contribution to the game, and enriched the lives of everyone that saw him play. It is a very sad day.

"Football has lost one of its greats, and I have lost a dear friend. He was a marvellous person and my thoughts are now with his family."

Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, said: "He was such a special player, a phenomenal player and I think I speak for everyone associated with Manchester United when I say he has left us with a million memories, all of them good ones.

"Some people are just born with a craft and leave an indelible mark on people's lives. The thing I remember, apart from his talent, was his courage."

The sports presenter and former Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson said: "He had stardust on him, absolute stardust. He elevated the game in this country and we players ... all hoped some of that stardust would fall on us as well."

Best's death provoked tributes from many other walks of life. Bob Geldof said: "George Best was a pop star. He was the first pop star footballer, the prototype for all the boys we know about today.

"Except that he did not know what he was doing. He was just this gorgeous young, talented kid and he got a lot of money every week, and could not deal with it."

It was from the Manchester United fans that some of the most poignant tributes came.

Mark Longden, of the Independent Man Utd Supporters Association, said: "Quite simply football is all about opinions, but there is only one fact. You can keep your Cruyffs, Peles and Maradonas. He was the best ever."

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