Football: Letter From Madrid - Toshack's soap opera

Letter from Madrid
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The Independent Online
JOHN BENJAMIN Toshack - Spaniards like to call Real Madrid's Welsh coach by his full name - seemed so keen to get rid of Davor Suker that he even humiliated Croatia's Golden Boot over a teddy bear.

Suker was in Fulham the other day to discuss his possible future with the club and gave a press conference on his return to the Spanish capital. He revealed few details of his visit, but disclosed that while in London he had visited Harrods and bought a fluffy teddy bear as a gift for his Spanish girlfriend, the television personality and glamour queen Ana Obregon. Perhaps he was directed to Harrods by Fulham's boss, Mohamed al Fayed. The cuddly toy cost, Suker confided, pounds 16.

Toshack swiftly declared to the world that in his opinion pounds 16 was a paltry sum to spend on a gift for your loved one. "I would have thought a woman like that deserved something more." The remark infuriated La Obregon, a formidable slice of mature blonde totty - Kim Basinger with a science degree - who has been Suker's devoted companion for three years.

She responded that she would rather receive a pounds 16 teddy bear from Davor than anything "that clown" could offer. Since her man was suspended by Toshack on no pay "he was hardly likely to buy me a diamond ring was he? Toshack should spend less time on me and more on Davor," she flounced.

This astonishing exchange blew Real Madrid's end-of-season spats from the sports newspapers into the gossip magazines, thence to their television equivalents and eventually on to the - far less important - news pages of Spain's main daily papers.

Toshak was forced to retreat: "Suker is undisciplined, that's all. He's missed three training sessions in a week." Oh, come off it, JB. "Well, I'm sorry about my remarks about the teddy bear. That wasn't very intelligent. I realise that the Croats, the Welsh and the Spanish have a very different sense of humour. It was a terribly unfortunate statement and if I've caused anyone any offence I apologise."

Obregon, forty-something, from a good family, is a high-profile television presenter and sit-com actress who had a walkon part as a gypsy girl in the 1983 Bo Derek vehicle 10. The romance between Suker and the luscious, publicity hungry screen star has long been a steamy staple of Hola! magazine and its many imitators.

When rumours began of their improbable relationship, Suker cut the speculation by saying: "Look, I'm a single man, I can go out with whoever I like". There followed the confessional photo-spreads: "We are very much in love". And, despite widespread scepticism, the idyll continues. A friend of mine saw them the other day snogging ("not concealing their love" in gossip- mag parlance) in a hotel bar in Seville where Real Madrid were playing a league fixture.

Obregon was formerly attached to a playboy Italian count, Alessandro Lequio, by whom she has a teenage son, Alex. Count Lequio shamelessly lives off cheques from gossip magazines on whose covers he appears frequently - last week naked by a pool in the company of one of Ana's many successors.

A TV reporter on Sunday accosted Suker and Obregon at a party and asked the footballer: "What do you think of Lequio's latest escapade?" Poor Suker was at a loss for words and, to fill the silence, the reporter added "Do you two have joint training sessions?"

Suker regained his poise, smiled and said "That's a good question." Ana, meanwhile, golden curls and upper body a-gogo, frantically squeezed into the frame, batting her lashes with a triumphant smirk.

But, she confessed days later to Diario 16, a serious newspaper: "Davor is devastated by Toshack's treatment. He wouldn't want me to say this but he hasn't slept for 10 days. He's very low." She added: "He can't drop his trousers so they can smack his botty because he's not a schoolboy."

At this point the dialogue becomes even more bizarre. Accused of washing dirty linen in public, Toshack responded: "I've come to wash out the stains made by others and hang out the sheets in the fresh air." This extraordinary statement was sprawled in a five-deck headline across the entire front page of the sports daily As.

Suker last week confirmed he was leaving Toshack's club, and Spain, though Ana says she will remain in Madrid. I'll be sorry to see this lively threesome split up.

Elizabeth Nash