Best in hospital for liver transplant

SOCCER legend George Best is to undergo a liver transplant operation after going into hospital yesterday, hospital officials said.

He was admitted to the private Cromwell Hospital in west London.

A hospital spokesman said a full medical statement would be issued.

The former Manchester United and Northern Ireland player revealed last year that he was considering a transplant operation after staying sober for 12 months.

The legendary drinker said he had cut out alcohol and had Antabuse tablets inserted into his stomach to keep him on the wagon after he was warned that just one more drink could kill him.

Monthly check-ups had showed that his liver was getting better, he said, but added in his column for The Mail On Sunday: “I might consider a transplant in the future.

“We’re seeing how it goes, but it’s great that I’ve been off alcohol long enough to be accepted on the transplant scheme.”

The 56-year-old, who now works as a sports commentator, was told he must give up drinking or die after he collapsed in early 2000.

Roger Williams, who has treated Best at the Cromwell Hospital previously, has told how the footballer’s liver had been ravaged by decades of heavy drinking, making him vulnerable to infections.

He underwent extensive treatment for liver damage at the Cromwell in 2000.

Best has battled with drink all his life, being arrested in 1984 for drink-driving and assaulting a police officer, and disgracing himself in public during a television interview with Terry Wogan in 1990.

He married second wife, Alex, seven years ago.

In 2000, the couple moved to a village in Northern Ireland to avoid the lure of London’s pubs and bars.

But last February, Best went on a three-day drinking spree which his wife believes put back his health by six months.

Best is not the first famous footballer to face a liver transplant.

Scotland’s Jim Baxter underwent two liver transplants in 1994 after years of hard living took its toll.

He died last year, of cancer, at 61, and British Chancellor Gordon Brown was among the hundreds of mourners at his funeral in Glasgow.

Baxter, known as Slim Jim, was a football legend as a player with Glasgow Rangers and his country’s national team.

More in this section