5 reasons footballers like Marcus Rashford stick with childhood sweethearts – dodging kiss-&-tells to gold digger fears

WITH their ridiculously huge salaries and superstar status, our top footballers could have women falling at their feet.

So it's rather sweet that many of our most famous players on the pitch are still head over heels for their childhood sweethearts.

This week The Sun revealed Manchester United star Marcus Rashford, 24, has reunited with his girlfriend of eight years, university graduate Lucia Loi, also 24, eight months after their "painful split."

A source said: "The break was good for their relationship as it offered them both space and assurance that they wanted to make this work moving forward."

Psychologist Emma Kenny, who runs the healthy social network site Appy, said there are a number of reasons why footballers tend to stay loyal to their first love.

She said: "Whilst a glittering football career can offer players a life beyond the average person’s wildest dreams, it comes with a unique set of problems.

"These WAGs knew these superstars before the fame and fortune.

"That gives the footballers a sense of being liked for who they truly are, not for their fast cars and luxury homes, which makes the relationship feel more authentic and safer.

"Another element that can make these relationships alluring is the nostalgia they provide."

Here, we take a look at the footballers who found their match early in life – and reveal five reasons why scoring early puts these pairs top of the love league.

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Why footballers stick with their first love

  1. Reality check early on: "Girlfriends who have dated these players growing up will have embraced as teenagers that football must be a priority, meaning they are more accepting of sharing their boyfriend with the beautiful game."
  2. Not gold diggers: "These women have known the football superstars before the fame and fortune. This sense of being ‘liked’ for who they truly are, as opposed to for their fast cars and luxury homes will make these relationships feel more authentic and safer."
  3. Unlikely to dish the dirt: "Footballers are very aware of how their liaisons can make it onto the front pages of the newspapers. Their childhood sweethearts have demonstrated a level of personal integrity that is very attractive in a long-term mate."
  4. Heroes set the example: "Younger football stars see a blueprint of possibility for these relationships to survive and to thrive from older stars like Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney."
  5. Nostalgia: "Maintaining links to our past can promote a sense of belonging. Teen relationships often embody a real strength of emotional connection. If a couple have shared memories of lower responsibility levels, fun, intimate experience and hanging out with good friends, it gives lots of positives to maintaining, or rekindling, a relationship."

Harry and Kate Kane

Harry Kane and Kate Goodland are married with three children
The pair joined David Beckham at the launch of his academy in 2005

Fate brought England captain Harry Kane and his wife Kate together when they were just 11 years old.

A photo shows the footie-mad pair with their hero, David Beckham, at the launch of his football academy near their East London homes in 2005.

The pair had known each other since attending Larkswood Primary in Chingford before going onto Chingford Foundation School, where Becks also went.

Although pals, Harry and Kate didn't start dating for another seven years after that picture, when they were 18.

Harry said: "When I was in school she was my friend. We always spoke, but just got closer and closer and it went from there."

The couple, who married in a mystery exotic location in 2019, now have three children.

The Rooneys

Those of us who remember when the teenage Wayne Rooney first made his mark on the sporting world will also remember his wife Coleen in her school uniform and chunky puffer coat.

Then just 16, Coleen had no idea what their future would hold – and she has stuck with the former England player through a lot of ups and downs.

The pair knew each other from when they were 12, when Wayne used to kickabout with Coleen's brothers by the garages near her home in Croxteth, Liverpool.

Wayne asked her out on their first date when they were both 16, after fixing Coleen's bike in the street, and he proposed when he was 17 at a petrol station.

Before they married, in 2004, Wayne admitted to visiting brothels and sleeping with a middle-aged prostitute.

Coleen revealed in her autobiography that she was heartbroken, writing: "At that time in our relationships, I'd never even slept with Wayne."

Since then the couple, who have four sons, have weathered cheating accusations, Wayne's driving ban for drink-driving and, last year, pictures of him slumped and sleeping in a chair while semi-naked party girls danced around him.

Gareth Bale and wife Emma

Gareth Bale met wife Emma Rhys-Jones at Whitchurch High School in Cardiff, and she inspired his famous goal celebration in which he makes a heart shape with his hands.

He once explained: "My girlfriend asked what I would do if I scored. I told her I would make the heart sign."

A homeboy, the Wales captain was never one to put himself in the sights of fame-hungry women in nightclubs.

He said: "I don't go out, so I don't get attention from girls. I just like chilling indoors, watching DVDs or going for a meal with the family."

He and Emma tied the knot in a secret ceremony in Majorca in 2009, attended by just 60 of their close friends and family.

Emma's dad, Martin, and her grandparents, John and Eva McMurray – who helped raise her – were absent due to a family rift, and guests were only told the location 24 hours beforehand.

The couple welcomed their fourth child, Xander, last year.

Lionel and Antonela Messi

Widely recognised as one of the greatest players of all time, Lionel Messi and his wife Antonela also have one of the greatest love stories.

They have known each other since they were young children, and there is a fantastic photo of the pair playing on an Argentine beach in 1998.

Antonela, who was about to turn 10 in the picture, was pals with the footballer, but on that day she had travelled to Punta Magotes to see her cousin, Lucas Scaglia, one of Messi's future teammates, play.

Barcelona legend Lionel moved to Spain to join the youth division of the club at 13, but he never forgot Antonela.

While studying dental medicine in Argentina, Antonela lost her best friend in a car crash – and Lionel immediately booked a flight home to comfort her.

She moved back to Barcelona with him and, now with three children to boot, the rest is history.

Jordan Pickford and wife Megan

England and Everton stopper Jordan Pickford, 27, and his wife Megan Davison like to keep their relationship low-key.

So much so that they shunned the usual lavish showbiz wedding in March 2020, and instead tied the knot at a register office, with the groom turning up in ripped jeans and a baseball hat.

The bride did wear white – a cuddly white jacket, which she teamed with black jeans and boots.

The pair had intended to celebrate with a lavish wedding in the Maldives, but it has been on hold since Covid.

Jordan and Megan met at St Robert of Newminster Catholic School, Tyne and Wear, and reportedly started dating at 14.

Their son, Arlo, was born in 2019.

Harry Maguire and fiancée Fern Hawkins

Harry Maguire, 28, and his fiancée Fern Hawkins are another teenage love story.

The Sheffield pair got together when the Manchester United player was 18 and Fern just 16.

Harry popped the question on a romantic trip to Paris in 2018 and last summer they celebrated 10 years together.

They have two daughters, Lillie, two, and Piper, one, and earlier this month, the family moved into their "dream" £4m Cheshire mansion.

According to reports, the pair are planning to marry in a French castle later this year and have sent out invitations.

A source told The Mirror: "No one is being given the address of the venue until they are on their way. That way they can keep it under wraps."

Kalvin Phillips and girlfriend Ashleigh Behan

Leeds United and England midfielder Kalvin Phillips, 26, met his girlfriend Ashleigh Behan two years before signing his first professional contract in 2013.

They met at Farnley Academy, West Yorkshire.

Ashleigh, a make-up artist, said on her Instagram stories: "I literally have the most embarrassing pics of us together from like Year Nine onwards."

Ashleigh recently revealed the moment Kalvin told her about his shock call-up from England manager Gareth Southgate to join the Euro 2020 squad.

She said: "I just screamed and cried instantly, I think the checkout guy thought I was mental."

Kyle Walker and wife Annie

It was revealed earlier this month that Kyle Walker and girlfriend Annie Kilner had secretly wed.

Theirs has been a rollercoaster of a relationship like no other.

Annie, mum to their three children, has forgiven Kyle's betrayals, including him fathering a love child.

After Instagram influencer Lauryn Goodman gave birth to his son, Annie said in 2020: “What he has done to me and our children is obscene.”

They met in their hometown of Sheffield and started dating when Kyle was 17 and Annie was just 15.

Referring to the couple's low-key wedding, a source told The Sun: "It’s fair to say they’ve had more than their fair share of ups and downs over the years but they’ve survived each one.

“They didn’t want any fanfare. They just wanted to be married.”

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