From the Pitch to the Parking Lot: Footballers and Their Cars

With Euro 2024 underway, we explore the relationship between the beautiful game and cars, one that goes far beyond overpaid footballers swanning around in priceless Ferraris. True, George best, liked the odd Jag and Roller but as José Mourinho and David James remind us, even the cheapest motor can inspire affection. Elsewhere, we reveal what happened when Paul Scholes left his car's engine running, when German footie fans grew restless and when footballers were replaced by Toyota Aygos. Some might say that's an idea some premiership clubs would do well to emulate...

George Best – ultimate E-Type

The original celebrity footballer loved his cars but had a particular soft spot for Jaguar E-Types. The Manchester United and Northern Ireland legend owned at least three including a Series 1 Roadster and a Series 1.5 Coupé. Another was a 1971 Series 3 V12 Coupé that Best called the 'ultimate cat'. This car came up for auction in 2015, 10 years after Best's death, when it sold to an anonymous bidder for £43,000.

David Beckham – personalised Maserati

We've all had fun with a car configurator but only a handful of people can make their dream a reality. One such is David Beckham who, in 2021, not only tried his hand styling his dream Maserati MC20 supercar but went to the Modena factory to apply the finishing touches with the help of Klaus Busse, the car maker's head of design. After experimenting with the colour options, the former England and Manchester United star settled on the colours of his Miami football team – black with pink detailing and pink brake calipers.

José Mourinho – first love

The Special One has a special relationship with cars and has owned many during his career, from the Suzuki Vitara he crashed while assistant coach at Barcelona in 1996 to the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti bought for him in 2008 by the then Chelsea FC owner, Roman Abramovich. However, perhaps his most treasured car is his first one, a Renault 5 bought for him by his father when he was studying at university.

Toy cars – pitch protest

Earlier this year, angry at the German football league's plans to admit private investors, protesters at the match between Bundesliga clubs Cologne and Werder Bremen piloted remote-controlled toy cars onto the pitch to disrupt the game's second half. As the cars careered around the penalty area, some of the players vainly attempted to kick them away. Finally, after the toy cars were removed, the game resumed. The result? Werder Bremen 1, Cologne 0.

Volkswagen – miniature ballboy and girl

At Euro 2020 and the UEFA Women's Euros 2022, VW fielded two remote-controlled models of its latest electric cars to deliver the match balls to several of the games. For Euro 2020, Tiny Football Car, a model ID.4, did the honours but for the Women's Euros the job went to Tiny Buzz, a model of the ID.Buzz. Both cars featured small cameras that captured their grass-level journeys from the side lines to the centre circle.

Paul Scholes – stolen Chevy

In winter, police and insurers warn about the risk of your car being stolen when, to defrost the windscreen, you leave it on your driveway with its engine running. However, it's advice Manchester United footballer Paul Scholes forgot when, in 2013, he did just that. With the outside temperature below freezing he fired up his £30,000 Chevrolet Captiva LT 2 estate, one of a number of Chevvys loaned to the club in a sponsorship deal, and nipped back inside his house. Within minutes the car had been stolen.

1970 World Cup – celebratory Cortina

As the 1970 World Cup got underway, Ford loaned each of England's 30 1966 World Cup footballing heroes a custom-designed Cortina 1600E. With 'Chosen for England', the England World Cup emblem and the crossed flags of Mexico and Britain stencilled on their bodywork, the cars cut quite a dash. At the end of the 12-month loan the players were given the option of buying them at a reduced price. A few, including legendary England and Manchester City striker Francis Lee, accepted the offer. This June, his car, registration number GWC 2H (the letters stand for Great World Cup), went to auction. Lee paid £700 for the Cortina in 1971 but at the June H&H sale and with a guide price of £50,000-£60,000, it failed to sell. 

Footballs – how many?

Fill a car with footballs and guess how many there are. It's a popular fund-raising competition especially among local clubs such as Leicester Football Club which, in 2020, challenged supporters to guess how many were in a Mercedes SLK – not easy given the car's folding roof was open. Fortunately, one boffin has applied some brain matter to the problem. Assuming the volume of the typical football to be 4188.8cc, they suggest you divide the volume of the car's cabin (length by width by height), deducting around 25% for its uneven shape and the seats plus the gaps between the balls, and divide the result by 4188.8cc. It might get you reasonably close to the truth or at least closer than anyone else.


Top Gear – car football

In an episode of Top Gear in 2005, presenter Richard Hammond suggested the best way to test the new Toyota Aygo city car, whose qualities, he said, must include being quick, light on its feet, good at changing direction and able to among traffic, would be to pit two teams of Aygos against each other in a game of car football. Cue complete mayhem as Hammond, co-presenter James May and 'players' including Ben Collins, aka The Stig, went bumper to bumper. Captain Slow (May) scored the first goal with Hammond equalising in the second half before netting the winner in the final seconds.   

David James – Reliant Robin limo

In 2008, the England goalkeeper was photographed behind the wheel of a decrepit Reliant Robin. It was the booby prize awarded each week to the player who put in the worst training session at James' then team, Portsmouth FC. Not only that but to add insult to injury, James and any other players who underperformed had to drive the Robin home each night.

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