Standing down as manager of the Wales football team, Ryan Giggs explained that he did not want speculation over his position to affect their preparations ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
‘It is my intention to resume my managerial career at a later date,’ he told fans in a statement issued in the run up to his trial last July.
A year on and in what capacity Giggs will work in football again is a question the sport’s administrators now find themselves facing.
Because while the 49-year-old may have today emerged from the protracted proceedings without a criminal record, the details that emerged during his trial about his compulsive cheating and vile behaviour towards ex-girlfriend Kate Greville only served to inflict further damage to his already tarnished reputation.
At its root are the way Giggs treats women, a problem which, at a time when the sport that made him famous is finally and fully embracing their place in the game, can no longer be simply shrugged off.
Ryan Giggs speaks to the media prior to a UEFA Nations League match with Bulgaria during his time as Wales coach
Giggs pictured leaving Manchester Crown Court in August 2022 has criminal proceedings against him dropped today
For too long such was his prodigious skill with a football – one of the most decorated players ever, he holds a record 13 Premier League winners medals – that the world was collectively prepared to turn a blind eye to his behaviour off the field.
It allowed him to cultivate an image of a faithful family man for whom loyalty meant everything – to club, country and even his long-suffering wife.
Indeed, by 2010 his manager was demanding his star player, by then already awarded an OBE, receive the highest of honours.
‘Ryan Giggs is a lovely person, every bit as unassuming and wholesome as he was the first time I met him when he was just a wee slip of a lad, barely embarked on his teens,’ wrote Sir Alex Ferguson in the forward to the player’s book My Life, My Story. ‘His name is wreathed in clouds of glory, his reputation is unassailable, he is an idol to millions all around the globe… Over twenty years I’ve seldom seen him lose his temper… I can’t wait for Giggsy to hear those three little words: ‘Arise Sir Ryan!’
To the background of what we now know that seems laughable.
Giving evidence at Manchester Crown Court Giggs admitted to being a liar, a serial cheat and a ‘jealous bully’ who sent vile, abusive and often foul-mouthed messages to Miss Greville.
The court also heard how he had affairs with at least eight other women while they were together.
But the truth is that even as that tribute was being penned back in 2010, Giggs’ actions were already making a mockery of Fergie’s judgement.
Because just months later he would be exposed for what he really was, after details of an affair with his younger brother Rhodri’s wife Natasha were revealed by The News of the World. The details were excruciating.
For too long such was his prodigious skill with a football – one of the most decorated players ever, he holds a record 13 Premier League winners medals – that the world was collectively prepared to turn a blind eye to his behaviour off the field. Pictured: Giggs scores a goal against Porto in the Champions League semi-final
Details that emerged during his trial about his compulsive cheating and vile behaviour towards ex-girlfriend Kate Greville (pictured)
The footballer spent £150,000 on a super-injunction in a bid to keep his affair with Imogen Thomas (pictured) a secret
The affair started while Giggs’ wife-to-be Stacey was pregnant with their first child and continued for eight years. In 2010, two weeks prior to Natasha and Rhodri getting married, Natasha fell pregnant with Giggs’ child. She aborted the baby after the star delivered £500 in cash on his bicycle as a contribution to the cost.
At the same time he was sleeping with Big Brother star Imogen Thomas, later spending £150,000 on a super-injunction in a bid to keep the relationship secret.
While the revelations about these infidelities obviously tainted Giggs’ reputation, incredibly they didn’t stop Manchester United making him their temporary manager in 2014.
And nor did it subsequently stop the Welsh Football Association putting him in charge of the national side in 2018.
The world now knows that while holding that position – ‘an honour and a privilege’ as he described it – Giggs wasn’t exclusively focused on football. Rather, on juggling his myriad lovers to satisfy his insatiable sex drive while at the same time toying with the emotions of anyone who got close to him.
But as his own barrister told the court, being a cheat, a womaniser, a liar and an adulterer isn’t a crime. And, ultimately, the jury was unable to reach verdicts on the charges of assault and controlling behaviour that he faced.
The former footballer insisted that he had never been violent to any woman, or used coercive or controlling behaviour against them. His barrister, Chris Daw KC, said the allegations were based on ‘distortion, exaggeration and lies’.
Giggs said he was ‘confused and scared’ after being arrested by police following the altercation, when he claimed he did not intentionally head-butt Greville but that they ‘clashed heads’.
Of course, what view the court of public opinion takes of such behaviour only time will now tell.
Put simply, will he be remembered for his talents on the field, or his misdemeanours off it?
Like George Best, another tarnished great, Giggs made his name as a fleet-footed winger playing for the most famous football club in the world, their skill and good looks combining to make them box office gold.
But having seen the circus that developed around the young Best, Manchester United wrapped their new star in cotton wool, stopping him giving interviews to the press until he turned 20.
That early silence helped create an image of a player whose only interest was what happened on the pitch. But beneath the surface the fault-lines in Giggs’ make-up ran deep.
Born in Cardiff in 1973 to 17-year-old parents, mum Lynne worked as a children’s nurse and as a cook in a café in the docks while his father Danny Wilson played rugby union for Cardiff and Newport. Wilson was from Sierra Leonean stock, his father the child of merchant seamen who settled in Tiger Bay in the 1920s.
Three years later the family was completed with the arrival of brother Rhodri.
‘They never married, and I’m not surprised,’ Giggs wrote of his parents in an autobiography published in 2005. ‘It was a fiery relationship which would occasionally spill over into real unpleasantness. There were many arguments, and too many of them became physical. Sometimes in front of me and Rhodri, and I hated it. After one particularly bad fight, when I was nearly three, my father was arrested, and my mum ordered him to leave the house. Obviously it was a bad time, but I grew up with it and accepted it as normal because I didn’t know any different. It was a view of family life that can’t have done me any good.’
Despite his father’s ‘bullying, aggressive nature’, Giggs looked up to him.
When Wilson moved to Manchester to play rugby league the family followed.
Giggs repeatedly cheated on his wife Stacey, including with his brother’s wife, Natasha. Pictured: Ryan and Stacey Giggs at the GQ Men of the Year awards in 2010
Giggs’ barrister, Chris Daw KC (pictured), said allegations against him were based on ‘distortion, exaggeration and lies’
The young Giggs’ excelled at sport, inheriting his dad’s speed and balance, eventually choosing football over rugby.
And so it was that, aged 14, Ferguson pulled up outside his mother’s house in a gold-coloured Mercedes and signed the player to the club he would remain with for the rest of his playing career.
At home the loyalty he showed to United would be directed towards his mother, adopting her surname instead of his father’s, from whom she had by then split.
‘The last fight was a massive one,’ he recalled. ‘I sat at the bus stop with him, waiting for the bus, crying. My dad was going. Presumably it was to another woman. He’d been caught at it a few times. In the end, his temper just became too much.’
Success on the field was accompanied by financial – and other – rewards.
At the age of 15, Giggs was dating a 19-year-old, the ‘fittest girl’ from his school. At 19, 3,000 Valentine’s Day cards were sent to him at his club.
Soon after he started dating the TV presenter Dani Behr.
It didn’t last long, though, with Giggs complaining that she got in the way of his daily routine.
‘I found it difficult because while I would go training, she’d stay in bed all morning, then when I got home at lunchtime she was raring to go. ‘Right,’ she’d ask, ‘where are we going? Let’s go out for a bit of lunch.’ After running around all morning, I just wanted to stay at home and relax in the afternoon, so it never really worked.’
Next up was Davinia Taylor, then 17 and still at college. The daughter of a multi-millionaire, the socialite would go on to become an actress.
‘We were quite serious, but she was very young, and it never go to the stage where I was tempted to ask her to move in with me,’ he wrote in the 2005 book.
Unsurprisingly there was no mention of the darker side of their relationship, the one in which the jealous Giggs was allegedly seen in a nightclub hurling a glass at Davinia, which smashed on a pillar and drenched her with drink.
There were also reports of another nightclub bust-up that left the Hollyoaks star needing hospital treatment – although no complaint was ever lodged with police.
Next up was Emma Gardner, from whom he split shortly after she miscarried their baby.
She was followed, in 2002, by Stacey Cooke the woman with whom he would have two children and later marry. Despite professing in interviews that his family was the most important thing in his life, his behaviour towards her was appalling.
In March 2003, when Stacey was pregnant with their daughter, Giggs started sleeping with Natasha behind her back.
The fact that two months later Natasha started dating his brother Rhodri didn’t bother him.
For eight years the affair would continue, their liaisons often arranged around his football fixtures. On the day he got her pregnant he was celebrating scoring two goals in a Man Utd victory.
Somehow their relationship stayed secret until 2011, when Natasha spectacularly blew the whistle on it – apparently after learning that Giggs was also cheating on her with Imogen Thomas.
Natasha said: ‘Ryan has a public image of this fantastic family man. A model professional. Mr Clean. Yes, he’s married with two children – but that’s as far as it goes. The way people see him is not the way he is. He is deceitful. He is deceitful to me, to Rhodri, to Stacey, to his whole family. He deserves to be exposed.’
The impact of the affair was devastating for the innocent parties. To this day Rhodri speaks of how it destroyed the very fabric of his life and how his brother has still not apologised.
Natasha Giggs, who was married to Ryan’s brother. speaks about her eight-year affair with the footballer on an episode of This Morning in 2012
Ryan’s brother, Rhodri Giggs, during Gold Cup Day at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse
And he certainly didn’t seem very apologetic when he subsequently bumped in to Natasha in the street, shouting at her through her car window: ‘Are you f***ing stupid? Did you honestly think I had feelings for you… it was just about sex’.
Somehow Giggs managed to keep his own marriage going, albeit only until 2016, when he and Stacey finally split.
It was his alleged flirting with a restaurant waitress that was said to be the ‘final straw’ for his long-suffering wife. But the court heard he was also sleeping with Miss Greville.
As their marriage crumbled, the phrase ‘Giggs cheating t***’ was daubed on a security fence surrounding the family home.
Not exactly the knighthood his manager believed he deserved, but possibly a fitting epitaph nonetheless for the boy with the golden touch whose feet turned out to be made very much of clay.