George Best, August 2005

George Best: Perfect XI

In one of his final interviews, the Manchester United and Northern Ireland legend picks his finest team-mates and opponents

Goalkeeper
Gordon Banks
I was tempted to go for my compatriot Pat Jennings, but Banksy just edges it because he won the big one: the World Cup. Funnily enough, Gordon never did that well against me – I always seemed to score – but his positioning was always impeccable. He was very brave for his size. He wasn't spectacular, but as he proved against Brazil in 1970, when he needed to be, he was equal to the task.

Right-back
Carlos Alberto

I like my full-backs to attack and he was the perfect example of the attacking full-back. So graceful going forward, epitomised by his goal, Brazil's fourth, in the World Cup Final in 1970. I played against him in the NASL later on in his career, but like Cafu now, he was still going strong. A lovely fella too.

Centre-back
Bobby Moore

A great player, a great leader and probably the best defender I've ever seen. Rarely seemed to head the ball or make a tackle, but the one tackle people remember him making was probably the greatest tackle of all time – on Jairzinho against Brazil in 1970. I preferred defenders who went to ground and dived in, but Bobby never did, which made him so hard to beat.

Centre-back
Mike England

John Charles played just before my time, but I've plumped for another Welshman. Mike England was probably more your typical centre-half than Mooro, so they'd combine well. Terrific in the air and in the tackle, he could also pass the ball out from the back superbly.

Left-back
Paul Breitner

Another great attacking full-back. I can remember him bursting forward and scoring from long-range, particularly at World Cup finals. Burst onto the scene towards the end of my career and won everything for club and country, but played well into his thirties, when he moved forward into midfield.

Right midfield
Billy Bremner

I've picked him on the right, but he'd probably tuck in alongside Dave Mackay. I don't have any wingers in my side, which is why I have such attacking full-backs. Bremner was the heartbeat of Don Revie's great Leeds side. He was hard as nails, but never kicked me – he left that to his partner in crime, Johnny Giles. Billy could also play a bit, though, pulling the strings in midfield and scoring goals too.

Centre midfield
Dave Mackay

Now he did kick me a few times! Probably the hardest player I ever played against. When he broke his leg, he got up as if it was a slight knock. Also an extraordinarily good footballer. Covered the ground superbly and could pass as well as anybody. A key player in Spurs' great Double-winning side and also won the League with Derby some years later.

Centre midfield
Jim Baxter

The fact that Jim Baxter is remembered mostly for humiliating England at Wembley in '67 helped with his selection. He was even more of a showman than me, which is saying something – and perhaps why I got on with him so well! So skilful, a real genius. Whenever we played against each other, we would try to outdo one another.

Left midfield
Bobby Charlton

What a pleasure to play alongside. I don't think I've even seen anybody who could beat players as easily as him, myself included. I often used my pace, but Bobby made it look effortless. And once he got within 30 yards of goal, he was lethal with either foot. Because he played a lot on the left, many people assume he was a natural left-footer, but I don't think he was. He was just so good with both feet. An easy choice.

Centre-forward
Denis Law

He was already a hero at Old Trafford when I joined Manchester United and I was in awe of him. I used to disappear into a side room if I saw him coming down the corridor, but he made me feel so welcome. Considering he didn't even like training, he was unbelievably quick, great in the air and also very brave. And once he got into the penalty box he was lethal. In fact, there wasn't much he couldn't do. The complete striker.

Centre-forward
Jimmy Greaves

You only have to look at his statistics to see how good a goalscorer Jimmy was. In today's game only Roman Abramovich could afford him – he was that good. People remember him primarily as a goal-poacher, but he was a tremendous dribbler too. He scored one goal for Spurs against us at White Hart Lane where he beat half the team, including the goalkeeper, before rolling it into an empty net. I still think that it's a travesty that he wasn't recalled for the 1966 World Cup Final, even though England eventually won. A great striker.

Substitutes
Pat Jennings and Liam Brady

I've got to have Big Pat on the bench for fear of a beating if I didn't at least include him in some capacity. He was another great goalkeeper. And Liam Brady was such a skilful, cultured player, and one of the first players from these shores to be successful overseas.

Interview: Louis Massarella. From the December 2005 issue of FourFourTwo. 


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