March 14 2011
The next few months will see the climax of the European football season with another potentially thrilling clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona in Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on April 17. The Catalans dismantled Los Merengues 5-nil in a stunning display at the Nou Camp last November and, in a team blessed with numerous outstanding individuals, their Argentine winger Lionel Messi is widely acknowledged to be the best player in the world. He’s also the latest footballer to become a fashion icon.
The 23-year-old has been promoting Dolce & Gabbana menswear and, for public appearances, such as when he picked up his European Golden Boot Award, he’s brushed up in a close-fitting Dolce & Gabbana charcoal-grey two-button woollen suit – and very smart he’s looked too. Of course, Messi is by no means the first footballing superstar to enjoy crossover success in the fashion business. David Beckham has been the most conspicuous trendsetter, but there is now a whole generation of moisturised and metrosexual footballers as accustomed to posing in their Calvin Kleins as they are in their home and away strips. Fortunately, not all the fads catch on and Cristiano Ronaldo’s silver, super-tight micro-shorts, as exhibited in Los Angeles in 2008, have yet to be widely adopted.
Dressing footballers in natty designer gear doesn’t turn them into great players or a winning team – as England’s manager, Fabio Capello, can testify. The stern Italian, always immaculately attired, chose a smart grey single-breasted suit designed by Timothy Everest for Marks & Spencer as England’s official wardrobe for the 2010 World Cup. The intention was to banish all memories of the Wag-inspired frivolity that surrounded England’s unsuccessful 2006 campaign. Unfortunately, it was the greyness rather than the smartness of the suits that was matched by on-the-pitch performances so devoid of colour that the players might as well have been kitted out by a thrift shop. George Best must have been turning in his grave.
The legendary Ulsterman, whose sublime skills lit up the game during his Manchester United heyday, was arguably football’s first great fashion model. His free-flowing genius, long dark hair and grinning good looks captured the spirit of the age and his two boutiques, Best Boutique and Edwardia, brought a touch of Carnaby Street to Manchester. The slim, double-breasted suits, shirts with big collars and kipper ties epitomised the Swinging Sixties every bit as much as Best’s red open-top sports car and the scintillating goal he scored in extra time in the 1968 European Cup Final. The shops didn’t last but, until the extent of his addiction to alcohol became apparent, what fun it was.
Messi has more than a touch of Best’s footballing genius and, assuming that Arsenal have been overcome in this month’s first knockout round, I expect Barça to progress to another Champions League Final at the end of May. I also reckon that the Premer League’s next great superstar is going to be Tottenham Hotspur’s Gareth Bale, who has been a joy to watch this season. A summer transfer to an even bigger club – Madrid or Barcelona, even – awaits and a major fashion contract too. But in the short term I reckon he could lead Spurs to another top-four finish at 5-4 with Coral.