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From attending Holloway Comprehensive, Islington to roaming around Monaco with the son of a brutal dictator, who carried suitcases of cash, Jay Bothroyd wondered how his life took this turn in the early years of his football career.
Just three years after leaving boyhood club Arsenal, England’s Bothroyd made the then rather unprecedented decision to attempt a new challenge abroad with Serie A club Perugia.
He arrived in the summer of 2003 but the transfer was certainly lost in the hysteria of another arrival in Perugia – Al-Saadi Gaddafi, son of Libyan tyrant Colonel Gaddafi.
Saadi, as he is known, started his playing career with Al-Ahly Tripoli in his native country. He reportedly once held a 5.3% stake in Juventus. Juve were sponsored by Tamoil, an oil energy company originating from the Libyan state, for five years.
Understandably, there were concerns that it would be too big for Saadi to move from the Libyan league to champions of what was arguably the best league in the world, so Perugia took him instead.
Despite being named captain of the Libyan national team and signing Diego Maradona and Olympic cheater Ben Johnson as private coaches, Saadi was a “terrible” player not much better than the league standard on Sunday, recalls Bothroyd.
Bothroyd is fully aware of the atrocities Gaddafi’s dictatorship has inflicted on many innocent people in their home country and abroad, but admits he and Saadi developed a friendship during their brief time as teammates.
Speaking of their adventures together, Bothroyd told Joe.co.uk: “He came about three weeks after me and he spoke English, he was the only person who spoke my language.
“In all the time that I was with him, I never even heard a raised voice. When people talk about his family, and I know that they are tyrants and have done terrible things to people of their country and other people, but I never experienced that from him.
“For him, money was like fresh air. He used to do things where I thought ‘really?’ He said ‘let’s go shopping’ and sent me a private jet to meet him.
“He sent me his driver, who picked me up, and he’s not going into town so I look around and say ‘excuse me, we’re going the wrong way.’
“We meet at the airport, we pull up in a private jet and I ask what’s going on and I’m told I’m going shopping in Milan. He was in Milan waiting.
“We actually went to a birthday party that night, that’s where I met my wife, so I guess it was thanks to him.
“He did things like that all the time, he had 100ft yachts, he took me to the south of France and Monaco. His entourage carried suitcases of money, I couldn’t believe what I I tried to contribute because I felt like I was always taking.
Although Bothroyd sometimes lived Riley’s life with Saadi, there were many stressful times in cash-strapped Perugia.
Bothroyd said there were occasions when he and his teammates were told they would not be paid in a certain month and the club were then forced to borrow money from Saadi to make sure the players wouldn’t go on strike and get paid.
But that still hasn’t stopped the lavish lifestyle, with Bothroyd recalling that he and a few bandmates traveled to Cannes for Saadi’s birthday where the Pussycat Dolls performed live at the house they were renting.
Cars were an obvious passion for Saadi, who Bothroyd said owned one of the world’s first Bugattis. And Italian football tradition dictated that new players had to invite their teammates over for dinner.
However, Saadi was determined to see his new teammates benefit from his love of flash cars until he was dissuaded from buying Bothroyd’s extravagant gifts.
He added: “In Italy when you make your debut you have to take your teammates out for dinner, pizza or something like that.
“He wanted to buy everyone a Mercedes. I was like ‘are you sure about this?’ He was going to order about 30 Mercedes for the staff, everyone.
“In the end he didn’t get them, I talked him out of it to be honest. I felt people were taking advantage. He then bought me an Escalade, I was like ‘ok, thanks!’
“He did things like that all the time which were just outrageous…I could write a book about him. He left me with very good memories. »
Bothroyd returned to England after Perugia’s relegation confirmation in 2003/04, joining Blackburn on loan in 2004/05 before moving permanently to Charlton in the summer of 2005. He then earned his first and only cap for the England playing for Cardiff. City.
Saadi’s life changed when his father’s brutal dictatorship ended during the Libyan civil war in 2011. His father was killed and Saadi was imprisoned in 2014 after being extradited from Niger where he had once fled his father. reversed.
He had been accused of murdering Libyan soccer coach Bashir al-Rayani in 2005, as well as committing crimes against protesters when the uprising against his father began.
He was later found innocent.
He was released in September 2021 and is believed to be currently residing in Turkey, where he is keeping a low profile. Bothroyd is no longer in contact with him. The memories will last a lifetime, however.
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Colonel Gaddafi’s son was a Serie A footballer who ‘carried suitcases of cash’, reportedly had a stake in Juventus, hired Diego Maradona and an Olympic drug cheater as private coaches and was dissuaded from buying a Mercedes to his teammates by Jay Bothroyd
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