Footballers hit the bottle ... for a profit

PARIS - The late, great George Best was renowned for his love of fine wine and champagne, and footballers past and present have followed his lead by investing in their very own vineyards.

PARIS - The late, great George Best was renowned for his love of fine wine and champagne, and footballers past and present have followed his lead by investing in their very own vineyards.

While some British heroes of yesteryear lost all their money by drinking away their profits, their modern contemporaries have proved to be keener on cultivating than imbibing.

Not surprisingly, the most well-known British star to have had a go at running a vineyard is England icon David Beckham, who bought one in the Bordeaux region as a present for his wife and one-time pop star Victoria.

Victoria's tastes have evidently matured since the days when she said her favourite wine was the cheap German 'Blue Nun'.

Predictably, though, it is the French who have taken to vineyard ownership most eagerly.

Former French glamour boy David Ginola has not gone in solo, but, as he revealed to the Daily Telegraph, it hasn't stopped him from tasting some success.

Given that wine is France's favourite tipple, it has perhaps restored some of his popularity with the French public, many of whom blamed him for his role in a defeat to Bulgaria that prevented France from reaching the 1994 World Cup.

"I have always been interested in buying a vineyard but they were too expensive when I was looking a few years ago," said the former Paris St-Germain, Newcastle and Tottenham star.

"So I have invested in a co-operative of small vineyards instead and that means I can blend my own wine.

"We've received a silver medal for my Costa Brulade and I am very proud of that," added the 41-year-old.

Jean Tigana - another former French star, who was part of the feted midfield quartet that inspired France to the 1984 European Championship - was one of the first high-profile players to see the attraction of making his own wine.

Indeed, he has enjoyed more success in the wine business than he did during an unhappy spell as coach of English side Fulham, where his biggest victory was the £3million in damages he won from club owner Mohammed Al-Fayed.

Tigana, who sold a vineyard in Bordeaux before snapping one up near Marseille, rarely speaks in public, but back in 2000 he laid out how he was approaching the ultimately unsuccessful task of rebuilding the Fulham side.

"It's like wine. In Bordeaux I rebuilt an abandoned property. I improved it bit by bit and now I have eight hectares.

"I'm proud that there is recognition of what I have done," said Tigana, who was reportedly in talks with Manchester United manager and wine connoisseur Alex Ferguson to buy another vineyard together. - Sapa-AFP

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