5. Paul McGrath (Manchester United, Aston Villa)
A brilliant defender who spent seven years each with United and Villa and played in three international tournaments for Republic of Ireland. His only honour for United was an FA Cup in 1985, in which he was voted Man of the Match. As his alcoholism grew worse, his performances began to suffer and in 1989 was offered a retirement package and a testimonial from United. He refused and signed for Aston Villa. A number of knee injuries and an addiction to booze meant McGrath never really cemented his place as one of English footballs top defenders.
4. Paul Merson (Arsenal, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, Portsmouth)
A talented midfielder who never really achieved as much as he could have. Merson’s drink and drug problem caused his first marriage to fall apart as he struggled to overcome his battle with booze. Despite claiming to now be clean he was spotted coming out of Boujis nightclub in South Kensington in 2006 completely smashed.
3. Tony Adams (Arsenal)
Another excellent defender who was part of George Grahams ‘famous four’ along with Steve Bould, Nigel Winterburn and Lee Dixon. Adams’ alcohol addiction saw him play several games hung-over, regularly get into fights in nightclubs and let off a number of fire extinguishers in a Pizza Hut with team-mate Ray Parlour. On a positive note Adams overcame his drink problem and founded the Sporting Chance Clinic, a charitable foundation that provided treatment for sports stars suffering from drink, drug or gambling problems.
2. Paul Gascoigne (Newcastle, Tottenham, Lazio, Rangers)
Without doubt the most gifted English midfielder of his generation, Gazza is now a sorry shadow of himself. Gazza’s drink troubles really escalated after he retired from football in 2004. He loved football so much that when he couldn’t play professionally anymore it “ripped his heart out”. Drinking such vast amounts of booze, as well as doing his fare share of drugs, has fried Gascoigne’s brain. In February 2008 he was sectioned under the mental health act. In channel 4 documentary Surviving Gazza he claimed to have close contact with the Royal Family, the Prime Minister, the US President and the Pope. Only weeks ago he turned up at the police stand of with Britain’s most wanted man Raoul Moat. Gazza claimed to be close friends with Moat and had brought him a can of lager, a chicken and a fishing rod. If it wasn’t so sad he’d be hilarious.
1 . George Best (Manchester United, Fulham, Hibernian)
Only ever going to be one winner really, despite Gazza’s heroic efforts. Arguably the greatest footballer to ever live and the first sporting sex symbol. Best suffered with alcoholism most of his adult life. He had it all, playing football for Manchester United, money, fame and women throwing themselves at him. Too much too young most would say. His drink problem saw him spend Christmas of 1984 behind bars for drunk driving and assaulting a police officer. In 1990 he appeared on Terry Wogan’s chat show clearly pissed, slurring his words and swearing. In August 2002 Best had a successful liver transplant, controversially paid for by the NHS. A year later he was spotted drinking again. His continued drinking saw him admitted to intensive care in October 2005. Two weeks later, at Best’s request, the News of the World tabloid published a picture of the dying star in his hospital bed with the message: “Don’t die like me.” Despite his condition improving for a short while, George Best died on 25th November 2005, aged 59. Pele once said: “George Best was the greatest player in the world.” Best’s problem was that enjoyed drinking as much as he enjoyed football.
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