Soccer legend George Best dies
Football legend George Best dies
George Best had suffered weeks of ill-health
Former football star George Best has died in hospital at the age of 59.
Son Calum, 24, who had kept an all-night vigil at Best's bedside, said: "Not only have I lost my dad but we've all lost a wonderful man."
Best died in intensive care at 1255 GMT on Friday following "a long and very valiant fight", said a statement from west London's Cromwell Hospital.
The ex-Manchester United and Northern Ireland star had multiple organ failure following weeks of ill health.
George should be remembered as the very best at what he did
Best's father Dickie, 87, was among family members at the bedside overnight.
A statement from Best's second wife, Alex, said: "George was the love of my life. He was a unique and talented person who made a lot of people very happy."
Republic of Ireland Prime Minister Bertie Ahern led tributes, describing Best as one of his "one of the best players the world has ever seen".
"In the days ahead people will struggle with words to try to describe his talent," Mr Ahern said.
"In this regard George should be remembered as the very best at what he did. He was quite simply a football genius."
GEORGE BEST'S HEALTH
March 2000: Severe liver damage diagnosed
February 2001: Treated for pneumonia
April 2001: Anti-alcohol pellets implanted into his stomach
July 2002: Undergoes liver transplant
November 2004: Routine operation to check on liver transplant
October 2005: Treated for kidney infection in intensive care
November 2005: Lung infection sees condition worsen
Decline of the golden boy
The hospital statement continued: "The thoughts of all staff at Cromwell Hospital are with Mr Best's family at this time."
Best had been in hospital since entering with flu-like symptoms on 1 October, later suffering a kidney infection.
His condition deteriorated sharply last Friday with the development of a lung infection that led to internal bleeding.
Best, a recovering alcoholic, was particularly susceptible to infection because of medicines he needed after a 2002 liver transplant.
The Belfast-born former footballer and television pundit had been prescribed medication to suppress the immune system and prevent his body rejecting the new liver.
At the time of his hospital admission in October, Best's agent Phil Hughes said his client had been "off the drink" before being admitted to the hospital.
Best is widely regarded as one of the greatest players to have graced the British and world game.
His heyday occurred during the 1960s, and he brought a pop star image to the game for the first time.
But the accompanying champagne and playboy lifestyle degenerated into alcoholism, bankruptcy, a prison sentence for drink-driving and, eventually, his controversial liver transplant.
He helped Manchester United win the First Division title in 1965 and 1967 and the European Cup in 1968. His role in the team's success was recognised by his becoming the European Footballer of the Year in 1968.
Best made 466 appearances for the Old Trafford club, scoring a total of 178 goals.
He also won 37 caps - scoring nine goals - for Northern Ireland.
Sad but very much expected news. His name says it all, the Best footballer in the world, even Pele says that. In Manchester in the 1960s he was called the "fifth Beatle" and he was certainly the first football superstar.
His health deteriorated markedly over the last few weeks. He courageously allowed The Sun to publish a photograph of him taken last week in hospital, as a warning to others.
He was a real "Belfast Boy", his family home only a mile from mine. He's always been much loved by my family. I can't really add t the tributes you'll find online, check out www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk as a starting point.
God bless George!