Ryan Giggs is the most successful footballer in UK history but on the eve of what could be the crowning glory of his career – a third Champions League win – he is mired in personal and legal drama.
The footballing reputation of Ryan Giggs is unprecedented in the modern game. After starting his career with Manchester United, joining the Youth Training Scheme as a teenager, the star has gone from a £120-a-week trainee to a multi-millionaire star who has won every single trophy in club football.
He is the most decorated UK player in history, with twelve league titles, four FA Cup wins, three League Cup wins and two Champions League winners medals.
When the Premier League began in 1992 he became one of the early “poster boys” of the newly-glamourised game that had been boosted by huge revenues from TV rights and sponsorship.
Girls sell their stories to newspapers. I rapidly realised it was something I didn’t really like so I made a conscious effort to settle down and keep a lower profile. Ryan Giggs, speaking in 2008
Footballers became pin-ups and Giggs’s speed, silky skills and regular position in the United side have made him one of the most popular players amongst fans, which brings with it the glare of media attention.
In an interivew with The Daily Mail in 2008 Giggs spoke openly about how he had learned early on to stay clear of press intrusion: “I was cocky, confident; I’d just left school and I wanted to go out with my mates and have lads’ holidays. Then you get recognised and followed or photographed.
“Girls sell their stories to newspapers. I rapidly realised it was something I didn’t really like so I made a conscious effort to settle down and keep a lower profile.”
In 2009 Giggs won the coveted BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award, a prize many saw as a career-long recognition of his achievements at his football club.
He has long been considered one of the game’s true professionals and as part of the Manchester United youth system that created David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville, part of the golden generation of British footballers. On Tuesday the now “old-guard” are set to play in Gary Neville’s testimonial in what is billed as a reunion of the club’s most successful stars; Beckham in his beloved United’s shirt one last time, and Ryan Giggs stepping out as the player who began it all. The club will be hoping that the revelations do not spoil the occassion.
Giggs, a Unicef representative who has campaigned to save children at danger from landmines has a little known African ancestry and has worked for a number of charitable initiatives in the continent.
As a player he has a clean-cut image and has never been sent off for his club. As his career as a player reaches its end, many of the 37-year-old’s former teammates have touted him as a future successor to Alex Ferguson as Manchester United manager.
The attention from the press from the parliamentary revelations have come at the worst possible time for Giggs and his club as United prepare to play the most lucrative game in football taking on Barcelona in the Champions League final on Saturday.
It is undoubtedly the biggest game in many years, both Manchester United and their Spanish opponents won their first ever European Cups at Wembley, the venue for the 2011 final, with United’s victory the famous 1968 win masterminded by George Best and Bobby Charlton.
The story book had envisaged that this weekend’s game would catapult Giggs into the same breath as these club legends but the cloud now surrounding his private life may bring a storm that will forever tarnish his golden reputation.