Even George Best himself got the number wrong, insisting there were four. "I didn't turn up for the other three," he said. The first was American. Marjorie Wallace accused him stealing a fur coat and some jewellery, on which charge he was cleared. The second was Mary Stavin, or Mary Ann-Catrin Stavin to give her full name. She was Swedish and is the one who features in the oft-told Best anecdote, the one that ends with the punchline, "where did it all go wrong?"
The details change, as does the location, but the gist never varies. There's Best swigging from a bottle of champagne in a swanky hotel with a well-endowed, under-clothed young woman, money strewn everywhere. Where, indeed, did it all go wrong?
The question haunts Duncan Hamilton's biography. It earns its "approved" status because Best's family have given their co-operation. Hamilton, moreover, says he prefers to write about people he likes, given that "biography is damn hard graft". And what's not to like about George Best?
If in later years he seemed unpleasantly arrogant, blowing his own trumpet as if he were Louis Armstrong and coming across as a womanising boor, it could be excused by the toll taken by the drink. That was what undid George Best. It was when he had his first alcoholic drink that it all began to go so spectacularly wrong.
Were he still alive Best would be 67. Instead he died eight years ago, aged 59, despite having had a liver transplant. In many people's eyes, however, he died long before that. I recall seeing him on Wogan in 1990, when he was so hammered he could barely talk. To Wogan's credit he did not attempt to milk the situation. Rather he was like someone watching one car about to slam into another.
So long and and painful and public was Best's decline that it takes effort to remember him in his pomp. Television is not much help. I dare say that centuries hence we will be able to watch pristine footage of witless celebrities debasing themselves in the jungle. What we have of Best, however, are grainy images in black and white.
Nevertheless, Best's genius - for once the word is appropriate - is evident to all. God, he was good.
Not the least of Hamilton's qualities is his ability to describe in words what happened when Best got hold of the ball, the way he moved, terrorising opponents and mesmerising his teammates.
He scored goals no one else could. Was he better than Pele? It's debateable. Was he better than Messi or Ronaldo? Of course he was. He could play in any position. He could tackle, head, shoot. But best of all he could dribble, as Rembrandt could paint. Imagine him playing for Brazil or Spain or Germany.
Fate determined his birth in Ireland. Like his Manchester United colleague, Denis Law, he was slight and weedy as a boy. He looked as if a puff of wind would blow him over. But he was also, like Law, tenacious, wiry, courageous, tough. Tackles he couldn't ride, he shrugged off, as a heifer does ticks. Nor did he ever resort to feigning injury or drop to ground when a bruiser whispered in his ear. The imperative was to stay on your feet, to hold on to the ball, to score. He only went down when he was poleaxed.
Matt Busby was the man who made him. From the outset, he realised that Best was in a different class. When Busby said to him after a game: "Well done, son", Best said, "I felt as if Jesus Christ had spoken to me." Busby was then building a new Manchester United side, having lost one in the Munich air disaster. As well as Best, there were Law and Charlton, different kinds of players, different kinds of men. Law's bailiwick was the six-yard box, Charlton's anywhere within shooting range.
Best's was the entire pitch. He had freedom to roam long before any legislation was passed. He was ungovernable, uncoachable. His talent was natural but one should not underestimate the effort Best put into honing it. Always good, he was desperate to improve.
Fuelled by his landlady's egg and chips, he spent every available hour with a ball at his feet. He had no smart technology to guide him. Back then, in the 1960s, sport and science had no connection. Players ate what they fancied, and drank and smoked.
Best, the brasher papers liked to say, was the fifth Beatle. He was one of many but the only footballer to be so-called.
Hamilton writes sympathetically and insightfully, an intelligent fan with a typewriter. He has a smart turn of phrase and an uncanny ability to describe accurately and compellingly what happened during a game.
In 1967, Northern Ireland played Scotland at Ninian Park. We weren't a bad team in those days but singlehandedly George Best thrashed us. "One-nil going on five," said Tommy Gemmill, who'd been given the job of shackling Best.
"Even his own teammates said they couldn't get the ball off him. "By the end," writes Hamilton, "the Scots were so disorientated and dizzy that you wonder how any of them walked in a straight line to the players' tunnel."
What a joy it was to watch.