Soccer legend George Best faced some awkward questions today after he was arrested for assault amid claims he had started drinking again.
Best, who has been warned that a single drink could kill him, was last seen in a hotel bar in Surrey shortly before closing time last night.
Earlier in the day the 57-year-old former Manchester United and Northern Ireland star had been arrested, but then released, on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm, police sources said.
Another man, believed to be a news photographer, aged 31, was also arrested and released following the incident just before 5.30pm.
The Chequers Hotel in the affluent village of Walton on the Hill, in Tadworth, became a media circus as news of Best’s arrest spread.
At the same time Best’s wife, Alex, told a Sunday newspaper that her husband was “on a mission to self-destruct”.
Last year Best pledged that he had abandoned drink forever after undergoing a liver transplant when he was said to have only weeks left to live. Critics at the time said there were more deserving cases for the NHS operation.
His wife Alex, 30, told the Mail on Sunday: “The last week has been hell. He seems to be on a mission to self-destruct and it is getting worse.
“I am sure George didn’t want to start drinking again.”
The News of the World said Best had been drinking at a pub near his home when he became involved in a scuffle with one of its photographers.
Best’s agent, Phil Hughes, told the paper: “He has been back down that pub every day.”
He said Best had been given stomach implants which should make him ill if he touches alcohol, but added: “He has been drinking a lot of white wine since and has not been sick once.”
Surrey police confirmed that two men were arrested at the hotel on suspicion of assault causing actual bodily harm.
A force spokesman said: “The first male is 57-years-old from Reigate and the second man was 31-years-old from Epsom. Both men have been released from Reigate police station without charge.”
No further action was expected to be taken against either man.
It was not clear whether Best, who was wearing a light blue short sleeved shirt, stayed at the hotel overnight or managed to slip past the large group of media which had gathered outside.
During the evening he was sat a table close to the bar surrounded by a small group of friends.
Throughout much of his adult life Best has been virtually a bar fixture.
At the height of his footballing powers Best was famed for spending his nights at exclusive clubs, leaving in the early hours with a beautiful blonde on his arm.
He walked out on the top class game in 1972.
He appeared for a number of clubs on both sides of the Atlantic over the next 11 years before finally hanging up his boots, but became better known for his unpredictability and battle with the bottle.
In recent years he has worked as a soccer pundit on TV.
He reportedly dates his drinking problems from the time the great Manchester United team of which he was part began to decline.
A spell in California, the birth of his son Calum and an arrest for drink driving led him to try the first of many cures.
A surgical cure in Norway involved implanting drug pellets in his stomach. The pellets react to alcohol and he was warned: “A drinking spree could kill you.” Three months later, he returned to alcohol.
In 1984 he served two months of a 12-week jail term for drink driving and assault on police.
Illness again struck him three years ago when he was treated for a liver complaint at the Cromwell Hospital in west London. He later he made a television pledge never to drink again .
But he started drinking once again after an argument with his wife Alex, 26 years his junior.
Best underwent his liver transplant last year after waiting months for a suitable organ.
He made a slow recovery from the operation, having to return to hospital once when the new organ showed initial signs of rejection.
But only last month he posed for magazine pictures showing him slim, fit and enjoying life to the full.