When Phil Jagielka was robbed at knifepoint by a masked gang last September there was nothing he could do. The Everton defe nder should have been playing at Hull in the Carling Cup, but injury had ruled him out, so he had invited three friends to his Cheshire home to share dinner and watch the game on TV.
There followed the most frightening experience of his life. "Suddenly there was a couple of bangs at the door," he told BBC Sport. "I thought it was the missus coming home from her college course. Three young men dressed all in black and with balaclavas were in my dining room. One threatened me with some kind of object while another went into the kitchen to get a couple of knives."
The victims were forced to hand over cash, watches and jewellery before Jagielka was told to open a safe or face the consequences. "Time just stood still," he said. "He was behind me with a big knife and told me to open the safe. It was quite surreal, and more disturbing afterwards than at the time. Thankfully none of us confronted them.
"They came in with nothing to lose and things could have got messy, so we just gave them what they wanted. My two kids were asleep upstairs, I had no weapon and the odds weren't stacked in my favour."
Jagielka was the 21st Premier League player in the north-west of England to be targeted by thieves in the last three years. Other victims include Pepe Reina, Robbie Keane, Lucas Leiva, Dirk Kuyt, Peter Crouch, Daniel Agger and Tony Hibbert. The wives of Steven Gerrard, Darren Fletcher, Emile Heskey and Roque Santa Cruz have also been subjected to terrifying attacks by armed intruders while their husbands were away from home playing games for their clubs.
Meanwhile, thieves also appear to be targeting the homes of London-based players in an area of Essex popular with footballers known as the "Golden Triangle". Pascal Chimbonda, Mido, Julien Faubert and Lucas Neill have all had their houses ransacked. Last month, an attempted raid was made on Ashley Cole's Surrey mansion while the Chelsea defender was at home.
"I know a lot of players have been robbed when they've been playing away from home," Jagielka said. "It's hard to tell if it's all organised but it's possible players have been followed home after games to discover where they live. With all the games now on TV, it's quite simple to work out when a player is away with a match."
John Bramhall, assistant chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, admits the crime wave represents "a major concern". Many top players are now using security firms to protect their property and families. Advanced surveillance cameras, which enable players to see their homes on their mobile phones, laser-beam alarm systems, panic rooms and bullet-proof cars are just some of the measures being employed.Reuse content