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Alex Best: I'm currently single, as it is hard to meet men because of George, and some are intimidated... it would take a pretty strong man to try to live up to him

Exclusive: Alex Best on keeping the famous surname, Botox, the latest film about the footballing great... and why it's her love life George's 'ghost' is haunting, not her home

By Claire McNeilly

George Best is no longer with us, but Alex Best certainly is.

It's nearly 12 years since the pair divorced yet the woman formerly known as Alexandra Macadam Pursey has no intention of giving up what must surely be the most fitting surname in football history.

Unlike the previous Mrs George Best, who maintains she "earned" the right to the famous name due to putting up with the late, wayward superstar through a torrent of his alcoholism and infidelity, Alex's reasoning is a lot simpler.

"It's just a nice name," said the 45-year-old ex-model.

"To be totally honest, 'Best' is better than 'Pursey'... I've had this name as long as I had my maiden name; I'm universally known as Alex Best now, so why change?"

Alex is clearly not ashamed of the name - admitting that it occasionally gets her better tables in restaurants - even though her time as Mrs Best was arguably even more challenging than that of her predecessor Angie.

When Angela MacDonald-Janes, also a model, met the Manchester United and Northern Ireland legend in the mid-Seventies he was still in his 20s, still earning big money and still mesmerising huge crowds with his ethereal soccer skills and film star looks.

He was the man every woman wanted - and every man wanted to be.

The George Best that Alex first encountered in the early Nineties, however, was 26 years older than her, overweight and heading for a liver transplant.

As for the money, he had apparently lived up to his infamous tongue-in-cheek boast that he "spent it on booze, beautiful women and fast cars - and squandered the rest".

Yet he was still the irresistible, charismatic Bestie... and, even in his late 40s, one capable of sweeping Alex - who, ironically, had no real interest in football - off her feet.

Their divorce, after a turbulent decade of marriage, was finalised a few months before the star's death in November 2005.

Alex told people she could have written a book about their ups and downs - and ended up doing just that.

Now, however, she says her memories of George are invariably good ones.

Speaking from her Surrey home ahead of tomorrow night's Irish premiere of the new documentary George Best: All By Himself, Alex revealed that she recently saw it in London.

"I thought it was really good - and quite surreal as well because George is actually the main narrative voice in it," she said. "He's telling the story of his life in snippets... it was kind of spooky hearing that in a big cinema, but they've done a good job."

The Daniel Gordon-directed project - which is being shown as part of the Belfast Film Festival at Movie House Dublin Road before its Irish cinema release on February 24 - is certainly garnering good reviews but, after so many books and previous documentaries about the first truly global football superstar, Alex said she hoped it will be the last.

"I believe this should be the final one; I think it's time to just let him be," she admitted. "I don't know what more can be said about George, to be honest.

"This documentary has great footage in it, but a lot of it we've already seen.

"I think we should just be left to great memories of him and move on."

Alex said it wasn't painful recalling those memories of George when she saw him up on the big screen. "You know, he's been gone for nearly 12 years now and, these days, I just remember the really good, happy times with him," she said.

"George had a fantastic, colourful life and I thought that, in general, the documentary was a great celebration of that."

She added: "I often think about him - all good things. I was married to him for 10 years and with him for 12 in total. It was a big part of my life. I was only 21 when we met, so he was a big influence in my growing up as well."

Alex said she wasn't surprised people were still interested in her late husband 40 years after the premature end to a glittering football career that reached its peak with Best being named European Footballer of the Year and being described, even by the great Pele himself, as the best player ever to pull on a pair of boots.

"Luckily, in his day there was televised football so people of this generation can see for themselves what an amazing player he was," she said.

"Of all the great footballers nowadays, he is still the best of the lot.

"I'm not even a football person - I'm more into rugby - but watching George play was like watching magic.

"And, of course, he did have a colourful life off the pitch; he was a good-looking guy... the first world superstar of his type. You can see why people are still interested. It's a good - if cautionary - story."

Alex hit the headlines herself recently after apparently claiming that George's ghost resides in her house, switching on lights and moving items around.

Some cynics have suggested that her comments on This Morning about supernatural events were the upshot of "the other ex-Mrs Best" hogging the limelight following her stint, along with son Calum, on Celebrity Big Brother.

But Alex blames another Belfast native, Eamonn Holmes, for the furore.

"It was Eamonn who suggested that it could be George, and I said no, it could be anything," she pointed out.

"I was on the programme because I'm currently doing a pilot for a television show called Unbelievable.

"It's all about astrology and psychic mediums... and I've moved into a cottage that was built in 1820 and there are very odd things going on at times.

"Even last night I was in the spare bedroom putting some clothes away; I didn't put the light on and yet it went on."

She added: "Everyone thought that what I was saying was about George, but it's an old house in Kingswood, Surrey, and an old guy called Tom used to live there..."

So it may not be Bestie after all, but there's little doubt that his legacy has proved daunting to potential suitors of his former wife, who revealed she was currently single.

"I do believe that it's hard to meet men because of George, and that some are intimidated because I was married to him," she said.

"If it was the other way round, I don't think I'd be too happy. If, for example, a man I was with had gone out with Claudia Schiffer or been married to her... yes, it might be a bit of a problem.

"I think it would have to be a pretty strong man out there who wants to be with me because people are intimidated. I'm also a very, very independent, strong person - so that may be another factor."

Her last long-term relationship was with businessman Howard Kruger, who she split up with "quite a long time ago now".

Kruger was there for Alex when her marriage to Best - during which she helped him recuperate from his liver operation and attempted, ultimately in vain, to keep him off alcohol - finally broke down in the early Noughties.

They first split up when Kruger was, wrongly, jailed for sexual assault, and got back together when he successfully appealed his conviction and cleared his name. The pair remain good friends.

"I was with Howard for about eight years in total, and we went our separate ways in 2011," she said.

"I went round to his house for Christmas; he only lives down the road from me.

"We've still got our mutual friends; I just think we grew apart. We lived together for quite a while and it just wasn't working. I wanted to do my thing and he wanted to do his thing and I think it became a power struggle."

Alex's "thing" these days is property in and around Portsmouth on the south coast of England.

The woman who once shared a coastal cottage with George in Portavogie, Co Down, during the ill-fated latter years of their marriage says she is building up quite a property portfolio.

"I decided to invest in a few buy-to-lets," she revealed.

"I've always loved dealing with property, buying houses, and I've always thought I was quite good at finding the right places.

"I also love doing interior design. I normally get the paintbrush out and paint it myself. You get such a sense of pleasure and fulfilment doing that."

She's also an ambassador for LA Skincare.

"I'm opening beauticians and promoting their products, which is very nice. You get lots of nice creams and things, which is lovely."

Alex's skin was, incidentally, another talking point that arose from her recent television appearance; had she been on the Botox?

It's a question the woman who turned 45 at the end of January didn't shy away from.

"I've been having Botox since I was about 28," she admitted.

"I only do it once every year - and sometimes I've gone for maybe three years at a time without it.

"I started doing it very, very young because I didn't want to get lines from smiling, so it was preventative."

She added: "That's the only thing I've ever had done - apart from my boobs."

Alex says she's still in touch with some members of the Northern Ireland-based Bests.

"I speak to George's younger brother Ian and his sister Grace too, as well as nieces, nephews and cousins," she explained.

There is also occasional correspondence with Calum, George's only child who was born in 1981 and has seemingly inherited many of his father's demons and vices.

Alex got a mention in Calum's recent autobiography, Second Best - and it made for uncomfortable reading, with the reality TV star claiming his inebriated father attacked him when he was just 14 years old after accusing him of having an affair with his second wife.

The book's publication two years ago caused considerable rancour within the Best family, but Alex said: "Calum has every right to say what he wants about his father.

"I've written an autobiography so I'm not going to throw stones at glass houses.

"If you are doing an autobiography you've got to be brutally honest, otherwise there's no point in writing one."

She added: "I see Calum from time to time and everything is fine. I don't phone him up or meet socially, but if we bump into each other we'll have a good old chat."

Having gone through 12 often challenging years with George, Alex - whose favourite current footballer is another former Old Trafford number seven, Cristiano Ronaldo - says she worries about the new generation of young, gifted players who often get too much, too soon.

"When they're kids and get all that adulation, which is what happened with George, I don't think they know what to do next because football's such a major part of their lives," she commented.

"Then, all of a sudden, that's not happening any more.

"My advice to these players is, stay focused and stay in the real world.

"They've got to keep their feet firmly on the ground, and managers and agents have got to play a big part in that."

Take it from Alex: she knows what she's talking about.

Belfast Telegraph


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