The number 7 jersey has earned a glowing reputation over the decades. And it’s fair to say that George Best set the bar particularly high when he donned the famous Manchester United jersey.
Fom Eric Cantona to David Beckham, it didn’t take long for a pattern of successful stars to follow. So, we thought we’d take a look at some of the most iconic names to have followed in his footsteps!
George Best donned the number 7 shirt for a total of 141 games, including the 1968 European Cup final, where Manchester United came out on top against Benfica.
Arguably, it was this game that earned George the iconic association to number 7. It’s been said that our Belfast boy kicked off the pattern of legends-to-be wearing the number.
An icon of the 1960s, Best’s raw talent and infectious charisma certainly paved the way for football stars of the future. As Pele said, “George Best was the greatest player in the world.”
Manchester United star David Beckham is one of the most famous players to have worn the 7 jersey. Beckham wore the Manchester United shirt until signing for Real Madrid back in 2003.
However, the humble footballer was quick to admit that it was icons of the past who inspired his ambition to adorn the number 7. Beckham said, “It was never my shirt. It was George Best’s, Bryan Robson’s, Eric Cantona’s.”
Nevertheless, there’s no doubt that Beckham went on to become one of the greats, leaving behind a shining legacy admired by fans across the world.
As Becks said himself, Eric Cantona was a number 7 legend. The international footballer turned actor donned the shirt at Manchester United with his trademark upturned collar.
Nicknamed “King Eric” by fans, the star wore the number for the rest of his time at the club. Cantona reinforced George Best’s number 7 effect, winning four Premier League titles in five years with the club.
It was Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson who gave Cristiano Ronaldo the chance to sport the number 7. The Portuguese legend told the press he was surprised when Ferguson made the decision, because he knew of all the great players who had donned the shirt before his time.
Ronaldo went on to become a football sensation, and was named best Portuguese player of all time by the Portuguese Football Federation in 2015. Ronaldo is the team’s all-time top goalscorer and was ranked the world’s most famous athlete in 2016 and 2017 by ESPN.
Retired footballer Raúl González is still regarded as one of the most important players in Real Madrid’s footballing history. And it’s no surprise that the Spanish football legend has also been known to slip on the lucky number.
When González played with Al Sadd of Qatar in the annual Trofeo Bernabeu fans came to watch the former Real Madrid legend and witnessed a particularly emotional moment. At half-time, Raúl presented his number seven jersey to Cristiano Ronaldo.
Making a return to France to join Ligue 1 club Marseille, French football legend Franck Ribery made his debut in the 7 shirt. His debut match saw the team defeat Bordeaux with a 2-0 score.
Scoring a multitude of goals in victory matches, in November, Ribery scored the winning goal with a 2-1 victory against Nantes. His winning goal was voted goal of the season by fans.
Following consistent high performances and UEFA Cup scores, Ribery bagged the title of Young Player of the Year awarded by the National Union of Professional Footballers.
Portuguese star Luis Figo is highly regarded in the football world, widely thought of as one of the best players of his generation. And of course, he too adorned the number 7 jersey.
The skilful star showcased the shirt for both Barcelona and Portugal. He was captain of Portugal during the 2006 World Cup, taking the team to the semi-finals. Though they were beaten by France, this was the best finish for the team in 40 years.
We hope you’ve enjoyed taking a look at some of the most iconic players to follow in George Best’s footsteps. To keep up with the latest news surrounding Belfast’s upcoming George Best Hotel, make sure you check back soon or join us over on Facebook.