The 11 footballers on the right are hot property. But do they live in one?

Anne Spackman looks at the transfer market in houses for soccer stars
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Barratt used to have a Premier range of houses, one of which was bought by Margaret Thatcher when she was Prime Minister. Now she is gone they might rename it the Premier League range in recognition of the success house builders have had in attracting top footballers to their estates. The largest house type could be named The International, a five-bedroom, detached property with double garage overlooking a golf course. A smaller version could be called The Player, for those in the Endsleigh League.

Footballers are renowned for their preference for modern houses over old, and for commuter towns over city centres. Outside every big-club city there is a concentrated pocket of footballing talent. At Bramhall, south of Manchester, the line-up includes Alan Kernaghan of Manchester City and Ireland, Paul Parker of Manchester United and his team-mates Peter Schmeichel and Steve Bruce, who are next-door neighbours. Of the four detached homes on a Bovis development outside Ipswich, three belong to players from Ipswich Town.

But before the builders rush off details of their latest developments to the club manager's secretary, they should be aware that the property transfer market - like the real transfer market - is changing.

Autumn was traditionally the time when the season's new signings bought their new homes. This year, only one of the big close-season transfers has done the traditional thing. David Ginola, one of Newcastle United's new stars, has bought a four-bedroom, modern bungalow in Woolsington, north of Newcastle.

But his team-mate Les Ferdinand, like Nick Barmby who transferred from Spurs to Middlesbrough, has chosen to rent instead. Les Ferdinand has taken on a two-bedroom flat in the thriving neighbourhood of Gosforth and kept his home in London. Nick Barmby is looking to rent in one of the villages on the North Yorkshire border. Meanwhile Stan Collymore of Liverpool, David Platt and Dennis Bergkamp of Arsenal are still living out of suitcases while they decide what to do.

Footballers are being advised that in the present property climate, it does not always make sense to buy the biggest house they can afford. John Holmes, the agent whose stable includes Nick Barmby, thinks renting will become an increasingly sensible option if the property market stays flat.

"Moving house used to be a way of making some money," he said. "Players used to get their removal expenses paid by the clubs, plus some money for carpets and curtains. They bought a new place before they'd sold their old one and the club paid the bridging loan.

"Now the clubs don't want to do that, it makes sense for the more established players to buy a family home in the area where they plan to settle down later and rent near their club in the meantime." Nick Barmby is following this path by buying a house for the future in Hull.

Footballers have often been mocked for choosing big, modern houses. It was seen as a sign that they had more money than taste. One exception was Gary Lineker - another Holmes' name - who bought a large house in St John's Wood when he moved to London. Gary McAllister of Leeds United, who has a home in Boston Spa, is another rare example of a player who prefers older houses.

But the modern estate home was a sensible choice for many players. New houses are maintenance free and ready to move in to. They also have a reputation - an increasingly questionable one - for being easy to sell. For people whose profession can take them from one end of the country to another at short notice, a period property is too long-term a project.

John Holmes points out that footballers often move to a club in a town with which they have no connections. Their first contacts are likely to be their team-mates. If they all live in one area it makes sense for the new boy to follow. For their wives, who rarely work, there is also the bonus of an immediate group of potential friends. If they come from a lively, working-class community, they are unlikely to like the idea of an isolated house in the country.

Developments near golf courses are particularly popular because footballers have so much time on their hands. On non-match days they can train in the morning and still have plenty of time for 18 holes in the afternoon. As their working hours are short and unconventional, they avoid the traffic jam which is one of the downsides of life in a commuter belt.

When Alan Kernaghan moved from Middlesbrough to Manchester he followed the traditional property path. He already had plenty of friends in the city, but he still chose to live in the footballer-belt of Bramhall. He bought a five-bedroom Crosby home a short walk from the nearest golf course and it has suited him very well.

"We bought the house brand new and moved straight in without having to do any work whatsoever," he said. "If we had to move away we would be disappointed. We thought about renting but the only stuff available was rubbish and they still wanted pounds 1,200 a month for it."

Crosby's long list of player-customers includes Roy Keane of Manchester United, who lives in Bowden; Andy Gray, the former Aston Villa player turned Sky Sports commentator, who lives at Barnt Green outside Birmingham; and Mark Bosnich, the Aston Villa goalkeeper.

But one of their most recent customers is indicative of the change in attitudes among the new generation of first-time-buyer footballers. Darren Rogers, who plays for Walsall, has bought a one-bedroom flat in Symphony Court, the new city centre development in Birmingham. Of Manchester United's boy stars, only Ryan Giggs, the richest and most established, has bought a vast modern home. The other recent first-time buyers - David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville - have opted for two- and three-bedroom modern homes.

Perhaps this season, alongside The International and The Player, the builders should introduce a more modest house called The Babe.

SEVEN PLAYERS WHO BOUGHT A DREAM HOME...

Ryan Giggs, 21, is the only one of Manchester United's boy-stars to have bought a vast modern home

Newcastle star David Ginola, 28, bought a four-bed bungalow in Woolsington, north of Newcastle

Alan Kernaghan, 28, of Manchester City, has a five-bed Crosby home in the footballer belt of Bramhall

Steve Bruce, 34, Manchester United captain, lives next door to Peter Schmeicel in Bramhall

Paul Parker, 31, Manchester United right back, is another resident of the Bramhall footballer belt

Aston Villa goalkeeper Mark Bosnich, 23, has joined Kernaghan and Keane as a Crosby player-customer

Manchester United midfielder Roy Keane, 24, owns a Crosby home in Bowden

AND FOUR WHO DIDN'T

Stan Collymore, 24, who moved to Liverpool in June this year, is still deciding whether to buy

Les Ferdinand, 29, Newcastle's acquisition from QPR, rents a flat in Gosforth while keeping his London home

Nick Barmby, 21, recently moved to Middlesbrough and is looking to rent in a North Yorkshire village

England captain David Platt, 29, is still living out of a suitcase after transferring from Sampdoria to Arsenal

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