FRENCH fancy David Ginola will be the football fans’ favourite in I’m A Celebrity this year.
But that shouldn’t be too difficult for the former Premier League star, who was used to evading the English game’s hatchet men.
Ginola starred at Newcastle, Spurs, Villa and Everton on our shores, once scooping both the PFA and Football Writers’ awards for player of the season.
In the 1990s, he was recognised as one of the pin-ups of the game – scoring off the pitch with L’Oreal, for who he proudly became an ambassador after reportedly replacing Hollywood actress Jennifer Aniston in the role.
However, in 2016 Ginola’s life was threatened by a heart attack that left him dead for eight minutes.
He was revived by a defibrillator and rushed to hospital for a quadruple bypass operation.
That same year, he would find love with model Maëva Denat – who is 22 years his junior.
In 2018, at the age of 51, Ginola became a father again to their daughter.
Skilful, but often misunderstood, Ginola was your classic maverick footballer.
He was called the best in the world by Dutch legend Johan Cruyff, another master on the pitch.
The elegant winger began a career in England with Newcastle, who paid PSG £2.5million for his services in 1995.
He was an integral part of Kevin Keegan’s ‘Entertainers’ who finished second in the Premier League in the 1995-96 season, their strongest league finish in decades.
But it was at Tottenham where he showed his real brilliance, winning both the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year awards in 1999.
It was at Spurs he won his only piece of English silverware – a League Cup medal.
His time with Aston Villa wasn’t so well regarded, with boss John Gregory calling him too fat to play.
Famously, he proved his manager wrong – whipping his top off and flashing his abs after scoring his first goal for the club.
Ginola retired from football in 2002, following a spell at Everton, aged 35.
As footballers became celebrities thanks to the growth of the Premier League and its foreign imports, handsome players like Ginola reaped the benefits.
In the mid 90s, he was often seen at glam parties mingling with supermodels, including Kate Moss at the Cannes Film Festival.
The poster boy of the beautiful game even appeared on the catwalk as a model for Nino Cerruti’s spring/summer collection in 1996.
But it was his turn as an ambassador for hair giants L’Oreal in a 1997 TV ad that had his female following fawning adoration.
He was the first man to be hired by the French company in the role.
And he replaced Friends star Jennifer Aniston as face of the brand – spilling the great line, “L’Oreal, because I’m worth it”.
Ginola’s love of red wine, cheese and red meat has led his partner Maëva to say he eats ‘like a Viking’.
It was a diet that nearly cost the bon vivant his life in 2016.
During a charity match in Mandelieu-La Napoule, southern France, Ginola collapsed as he was running, falling face first into the turf.
Motionless, he was attended to by paramedics who discovered that he had swallowed his tongue and suffered a cardiac arrest.
“My heart stopped for eight minutes at least”, he told The Sun exclusively back in 2017.
“There was no pulse. I was dead. Then the air ambulance arrived and they hooked me up to a defibrillator.”
After four electric shocks, Ginola’s pulse began again.
He was rushed to hospital, where doctors performed a six-hour quadruple bypass operation that saved his life.
Most recently, David was a guest in the studio for Sky Sports’ coverage of Newcastle’s game against Spurs at St James’ Park, when the match was stopped after a fan suffered a heart attack.
Notably moved by the situation, Ginola admitted it brought back “weird memories” for him as the situation unfolded.
However, he delivered an honest and frank discussion about his own experience, while urging the public to learn CPR.
IN LOVE AGAIN
Ginola, who also appears on TalkSPORT, reportedly left his wife Coraline of 25 years for his current partner, the stunning model Maëva.
Before it was announced they were split, he was seen walking with his arm around the French beauty, who is 22 years his junior, in Paris.
In 2018, they welcomed a baby into their world, and David has played the role of doting dad, often seen carrying his daughter in his arms around London.
Ginola also has two children from his previous marriage, son Andrea and daughter Carla, who is a model back in France.
Although Maëva has concerns about his well-being, with a defibrillator on set should the worst happen, she is convinced Ginola will be fearless when it comes to the horrendous tasks that await.
“There is almost nothing that scares David, not even death,” she told The Sun.
“He is a force of nature and will go outside bare-chested when it is snowing.
“He doesn’t feel the cold and he loves the wind and rain. He is incredibly strong and says I make him feel young again.
“We love playing backgammon, but David always wins. You can’t play a game with him because he has to win and he always wins.
“He is not afraid of insects or bugs. I scream if I see a spider and he will jokingly scream at me and ask, ‘Why are you screaming like that?’ The only thing he is afraid of is sharks but he wants to dive with them to conquer his fear.”
With the show set in Wales, not Australia, David might not encounter any sharks.
But you can bet he will make for an entertaining, sophisticated, and debonair I’m A Celeb contender.
Even if that means taking an age in the shower looking after that barnet.