George Best the legend dies aged 59

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The Independent Football

The football legend George Best died today with his family at his bedside.

The star's tearful son Calum said: "Not only have I lost my dad but we've all lost a wonderful man."

Best's sister Barbara thanked the "thousands and thousands" of people who sent cards and emails.

She said: "We have taken great comfort from those."

Speaking outside Cromwell Hospital in west London, where her brother died at 12.55pm, she said: "As you can imagine this is a very difficult time so you will understand if we are a bit emotional."

After thanking the medical team for their efforts, she voiced a "very special thank you" to Best's agent, Phil Hughes, who looked distraught.

She said: "Over the last at least 25 years he has been to George nothing but a firm friend."

Best's father Dickie, 87, appealed for the family to be left to grieve in peace.

Denis Law, the star's friend and former team-mate at Manchester United, said Best had enjoyed his life but in the end his death after a long illness had been a "blessing".

"It's an extremely sad day," Law said.

Republic of Ireland Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said Belfast-born Best was "one of the best players the world has ever seen".

Mr Ahern said: "He was quite simply a football genius."

Best's second wife, Alex, said she would always miss the football legend and Northern Ireland international. The couple married in 1995 and divorced in 2004.

In a statement she said: "George was the love of my life. He was a unique and talented person who made a lot of people very happy. I will always miss him."

A hospital spokesman said Best died at 12.55pm today. He had suffered multiple organ failure.

"After a long and very valiant fight Mr George Best has just died this afternoon in the intensive care unit at Cromwell Hospital," the spokesman said.

"The thoughts of all staff at Cromwell Hospital are with Mr Best's family at this time."

His family had kept an all-night vigil at his bedside.

This morning floral tributes started to arrive outside the private hospital.

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.

Best was admitted to Cromwell Hospital on 1 October 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 last week when he suffered a severe setback.

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

His condition deteriorated further on Wednesday night after which his consultant, Professor Roger Williams, said there was no longer anything doctors could do.