From wonderkid to world-beater: George Best's first five seasons in photographs

10. Shooting into stardom

11 Mar 1966: Like many a tourist returning from Iberia to the British Isles in the 1960s, Best sports a sombrero as United land at Heathrow (freshly renamed from the rather more prosaic London Airport). 

Best's display at Benfica took him to another level of media interest across Europe; think of Gareth Bale's explosive hat-trick at Inter Milan, multiplied by the sort of frenzy that occurred in days when football wasn't available as 24-hour TV wallpaper. The Portuguese press, showing their own taste for an easy cultural reference, christened Best 'El Beatle', and he was certainly now becoming famous enough to be screamed at in the street.

United were the eighth British team in 11 years to reach the European Cup semi-final: Liverpool had been beaten by Inter the previous year, Dundee by Milan in 1963, Spurs by Benfica in 1962, Rangers by Eintracht Frankfurt in 1960, a post-Munich United by Milan in 1958, the Busby Babes to Real Madrid in 1957 and Hibs to Stade Reims in 1956. Sadly, they were to fall at the same hurdle. 

The draw pitted them against Partizan Belgrade, meaning an emotional return to the last place the Busby Babes had played before the Munich disaster. A 2-0 defeat gave them too much to do in the home leg, with Nobby Stiles' goal not enough to keep them in Europe. 


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