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Best recovering after transplant

Best: In a stable condition after operation
Best: In a stable condition after operation  

LONDON, England -- Soccer legend George Best is recovering in hospital after undergoing a liver transplant operation.

The 56-year-old underwent 10 hours of surgery at London's Cromwell Hospital on Tuesday in a procedure described as "difficult."

But doctors said his prospects for recovery were good, barring complications, and he is on an intensive care ward where he is expected to remain for at least two days.

Best's wife, Alex, and his son from a former marriage, Calum, are at his bedside.

Consultant physician Professor Roger Williams told reporters that the former Manchester United and Northern Ireland star was in a stable condition after the operation.

"The long-term chances, if he gets through the first week, are very good," said Williams.

"About 80 percent of people having a transplant do well at one year. If they do well at one year, they go on doing well."

Best, considered to be one of the greatest footballers of all time, was placed on the transplant waiting list nine months ago after years of alcohol abuse.

He revealed last year that he was considering a transplant operation after staying sober for 12 months -- the criteria for a place on the waiting list.

Now a sports commentator, he was told he must give up drinking or die after he collapsed in early 2000.

He underwent extensive treatment for liver damage at the Cromwell later that year and Williams, who treated him, told how the footballer's liver was ravaged by the heavy drinking, making him vulnerable to infections.

But he cut out alcohol and had anti-alcohol tablets sewn into his stomach to keep him from drinking after he was warned just one more drink could kill him.

But his liver was not recovering from the decades of abuse.

Best told a British newspaper in May: "I must be the only person in the world who's looking forward to going into hospital. I can't wait to get it over and done with."

Former Manchester City player Rodney Marsh, a longtime friend of Best and fellow commentator, said on Tuesday: "He's got tons of fight, he's got that old Irish spirit.

"I went to his house for a barbecue eight weeks ago and he was looking forward to having a transplant.

"In the last part of last season, he got a little bit tired. We did talk about the operation, how long it was going to take, the ins and out.

"He knows what to expect. He said it could be up to two years recuperation as well."

Born in Belfast in 1946, Best captivated the football world in a sparkling 10-year career at Manchester United from 1963 to 1973, inspiring them to their 1968 European Cup triumph.

Best was voted European Footballer of the Year that season but a hectic life style eventually took its toll.

In a statement released by Manchester United on Tuesday, the club said: "Everyone at Manchester United wishes George all the best in the operation and a speedy recovery afterwards."


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