Belfast Telegraph

In pictures: Mixed reaction to George Best statue - but where does it rank in football's great sculptures

Have a look at our photo gallery to decide where the George Best statue comes in the good, the bad and the ugly footballing statues

The statue of George Best, unveiled near Windsor Park, has been the target of social media abuse but the sculptor says he is happy with the positive reactions of those who are 'important'.
The statue of George Best, unveiled near Windsor Park, has been the target of social media abuse but the sculptor says he is happy with the positive reactions of those who are 'important'.
George Best was first immortalised in statue form at Manchester United's Old Trafford Stadium. This famous commemoration of Best (left), along with fellow legends Denis Law and Bobby Charlton was unveiled on May 29 2008, 40 years to the day since the trio helped the club lift the European Cup for the first time. Charlton, Best and Law scored 665 goals between them for United and between 1964 and 1968 and all won the coveted European Footballer of the Year award.
A third George Best statue is set to be unveiled at the new George Best Hotel. It's due to open in Belfast city centre next month, six months behind schedule.
Sporting statues are few and far between in Northern Ireland. The other prominent football sculpture stands in Coleraine town centre and is of former Celtic, Coleraine and Northern Ireland star Bertie Peacock. He made over 300 appearances for Celtic, winning the first division once and the Scottish Cup twice, before returning home to help hometown club Coleraine to their only league title in 1974.
However mixed the reaction to the new George Best statue, it has certainly not come close to the furore that followed the unveiling of a Cristiano Ronaldo bust (left) at Madeira Airport in 2017. It was mercilessly mocked on social media and was even remade by sculptor Emanuel Santos. There is a full statue of the Portuguese hero at his CR7 museum (right). For more statues that drew a less than impressed reaction, see our embeds in the article.
If the Ronaldo bust is commonly thought of as the worst, the most bizaree football-related statue has to go to the Michael Jackson monument at Fulham's Craven Cottage home. It was unveiled by then owner Mohamed Al-Fayed and 2011 but, to no surprise whatsoever, it was removed by Shahid Khan when he bought the club in 2013. It was on display in the National Football Museum but has now been taken off display.
One of football's most famous statues stands outside Wembley and features who else but England's World Cup winning captain from 1966 Bobby Moore.
Bestie isn't the only man with two statues. One of the other much-loved footballing figures to be commemorated in two different places is legendary manager Sir Bobby Robson, whose statues stand at former clubs Ipswich (left) and Newcastle (right).
Celtic icon Billy McNeill was commemorated in 2015 as the club looked to remember the greatest night in their history. Captain of the Lisbon Lions, McNeill is still the only Hoops skipper to get his hands on the European City when his side defeated Inter Milan 2-1 in 1967.
Remembering the same night is the statue of then manager Jock Stein, which stands alongside McNeill outside Celtic Park.
What about Sir Alex Ferguson's statue at Old Trafford? It was unveiled in November 2012, before Ferguson won his 13th Premier League title and retired in 2013.
Speaking of legendary managers, the only man to have a statue outside Anfield (bar the mock David Moyes one unveiled by Paddy Power during the Scotsman's less than glorious Manchester United reign) is Bill Shankly. It has been standing since way back in 1997 and is a popular spot for visiting fans to get their photo taken.
Another manager to be immortalised outside a club's stadium is Graham Taylor, who now sits outside Watford's Vicarage Road.
The statue of former Newcastle United and Linfield striker Jackie Milburn stands outside St James' Park. Milburn is the uncle of World Cup winning brothers Jack and Bobby Charlton.
Arsenal have recently unveiled three statues of their recent playing greats. The first two to go up were unveiled in 2011. One of those is of former captain Tony Adams.
Also remembered at the Emirates Stadium is Thierry Henry, whose sliding pose is a hark back to his celebration after scoring against rivals Tottenham at Highbury in 2002.
Joining Adams and Henry in 2014 was Dennis Bergkamp, the Dutch magician's trademark skill shown with his action pose.

The new George Best statue near Windsor Park has divided opinions, with some fans on social media sticking in the boot.

The sculpture has been likened to anything from a Game of Thrones whitewalker to "Paul Scholes with a 70s haircut," with some critics even commenting it looks more like Pat Jennings, who helped unveil it, than it does Best.

It was created by Tony Currie, from Downpatrick-based Lecale Bronze, and was partially funded by supporters through an online campaign.

BBC presented Joel Taggart pleaded on social media for the statue to be better in real life than it looks in photographs while Q Radio's Stephen Clements admitted to feeling "slightly robbed".

A huge amount of fans on the typically vicious social media joined in, some believing it was an "insult" to Best's memory.

However, the sculptor himself has insisted he is happy with the reaction of anybody who matters to him.

"Anybody that's important to the statue - his family and his fans - they've all agreed that it's his likeness and that's enough for me," he told the BBC.

"Everybody is entitled to their opinion, I grant that, but the people that matter have given it their seal of approval so I'm happy."

He added: "Because he's in an action pose, it's far harder to capture that in bronze. There are all sorts of engineering issues going along with that because he's leaning to one side. It's a difficult trick to pull off."

Also speaking on BBC Talkback, art critic Liz Kennedy defended the sculpture and its likeness to the legendary player.

"I think you have to see it, the pictures don't do it justice," she said. "There's an angle, I think that people will see that likeness, particularly on the right profile.

"It was at first smaller than I expected but that's because it's an action pose. I thought that Tony the artist has actually really captured the right profile. Statues are always going to be a matter of contention.

"The people who have decried it on social media - I wonder how many of them have actually been down (to see it)?"

Other fans were more satisfied, Heather Lown compared the Best effort to Arsenal's statues of two of their most famous sons Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry saying they never get a true likeness in statues.

"It's a wonderful gesture. I like it... let's just embrace it and carry on," she said.

It's not the only statue to receive online abuse in recent years. The most famous of those, of course, is the Cristiano Ronaldo bust that was unveiled at Madeira Airport in 2017 and corrected a year later.

Just months earlier, there was a tribute to Diego Maradona that was the subject of much ridicule and was even likened to Susan Boyle.

Less well known but potentially the strangest of the lot is this statue of Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, which was unveiled in Egypt last year. Anybody else see Marv from Home Alone?

Alberto Morales Saravia is another to face the wrath of social media after his statue of Luis Suarez in Uruguay was met with disapproval.

So where does the George Best statue come in the list of the good, the bad and the ugly footballing statues?

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