HIS wicked left foot once saw football fans across England describing David Bentley as the next Beckham.
But in the past 18 months since he fell out of love with the game, the ex-Arsenal and Tottenham midfielder has not even touched a football, and he’s only 29.
The glitzy world of Premiership soccer – the fame, the money and the razzmatazz – have all been left behind for Spanish lessons, business and, more than anything, family.
But make no mistakes, this is a man who knows what he wants, and isn’t afraid to make huge football-shaped sacrifices to go get it.
“I have great memories of my football days, I loved it and it was a privilege, but now I am taking a different direction,” said the seven-times capped England international, who is now a part-owner of Marbella restaurant chain La Sala.
“I’ve been coming to the Costa del Sol every year since I was 18 and I love the diversity, I don’t think there is a better place in the world to raise children.
“I could live in LA, Florida, Marbella… but we chose here for the lifestyle, because the kids can learn and do so much.”
Bentley, who lives in the rural artists’ enclave of Benahavis with wife Kimberly, four-year-old daughter Devon and newborn twins, is not just another British expat simply here for the sun, sea and sangria.
He wants his children to absorb the Spanish culture and to grow up speaking both languages.
“My wife and I are determined to become fluent in Spanish, we were having three lessons a week until recently,” he explained.
“But my kids are basically getting it for free, they will go to a Spanish nursery and school so they don’t even have to try!”
While he is adamant that nothing, no amount of money, would persuade him to return to the game which turned so sour for him, Bentley admits that the prospect of playing in Spain was always a dream.
“The Spanish league would have really suited me, it was always my favourite football to watch,” he said. “I could have searched around for a team here but I just didn’t want to uproot my family.”
Although footballs are not to be found in the Bentley family garden, it’s safe to say they will always be a sporty bunch. Golf, horse-riding, watersports and go-karting are among their favorite pastimes.
And while many may scoff at the man who turned his back on every young boy’s dream, Bentley is undoubtedly happier, and financially safer, than most footballers are in the years following retirement.
“So many of them are simply spending everything they earn, they don’t receive proper advice and it’s very different to the public’s perception,” he admitted.
“I know I’m not the richest man in the world but I’m comfortable, and grateful for that. I’m happy to just have one nice car, I don’t need ten.”
“I know footballers who have gone bankrupt and it seems unbelievable.”
Unlike his fellow players, Bentley is a man with a plan, at least for the next 15 years while the kids go through school. “La Sala is a really excited business to be involved in, we are all good friends and it’s expanding rapidly.”
Despite dedicating his youth to the game he fell out of love with, stating it had become too ‘robotic, boring and predictable’, Bentley said he wouldn’t hesitate to support his son in doing exactly the same.
“Honestly, if I told him football wasn’t worth it I hope he’d tell me to get lost!”