Date: 27th January 2020 at 10:27am
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Gravesen was a key figure in some of Denmark’s most successful modern-day national teams

One of the most iconic Everton midfielders of the 2000s is back in football after more than a decade away from the game. Gravesen has moved back to his Danish homeland some 11 years after retiring from football to work as a pundit on a national TV show.

Affectionally nicknamed ‘Mad Dog,’ Gravesen was one of Denmark’s most successful football exports in the 2000s, and it’s great to see his charismatic personality return in what marks his first formal post in the sport after hanging up his boots.

Gravesen, who played 66 times for his country, spent five successful years at Goodison Park, making 141 competitive appearances for the Toffees, before earning a life-changing move to Real Madrid. Gravesen retired from the sport in 2008 – after short-term spells with Glasgow Celtic and a second loan stint with Everton – and opted for a life that was vastly different to the one he enjoyed on Merseyside.

From the city of Liverpool to Sin City

After quitting his life as a professional footballer at the relatively young age of 33, the former Real Madrid ace opted to go from ‘Galactico’ to ‘High Roller’ in Las Vegas. He became a recognised face at the tables of some of the most prestigious poker rooms on the Vegas Strip. More recently, live poker events in the city are back in vogue after several years of decreasing numbers, but prize money here still reigns supreme compared to other tourist cities around the world.

At the very peak of Gravesen’s football career, he was earning a reported £85,000 a week with Real Madrid in 2005. However, Gravesen knew that his time at the Bernabeu would be brief and opted to invest significant sums of his income into a handful of financial companies. According to a Danish tabloid, Gravesen struck it lucky with these investments, raking in tens of millions of pounds. What did he do with all that money? He did what many other people would do in his position – head for Las Vegas for a round of Texas Hold ‘em.

With an eight-figure sum burning a hole in his pocket, Gravesen became a very frequent customer at the leading poker rooms on the Las Vegas Strip. Some reports suggest he’s won £80m at the poker tables in the eight years he lived in the Nevada desert, while others claim that he lost as much as £42m in one high-stakes game of poker. Either way, it’s clear that the Dane has been hell-bent on having fun in his early retirement.

Gravesen enjoyed his time on “Millionaire’s Row”

The vast, unique Nevada landscape: Gravesen’s recent playground (SOURCE: Photo, Public Domain)

When upping sticks from the UK to Vegas, Gravesen purchased a home in a private gated community, nicknamed Vegas’ “Millionaire’s Row.” It’s an out-of-town area called Summerlin, which was once labelled by National Geographic Adventure as the best place to “live and play” poker back in 2007. With a model wife, Kamila Persse and A-List Hollywood and sports stars such as Nicolas Cage and Andre Agassi as neighbours, it was another world from his playing days in Denmark.

Persse is said to be one of the main reasons that Gravesen took the plunge to live in the US. The Czech-American, who has since retired from her glamour model days, now works as an agent in real estate, which is certainly very lucrative in the city of Vegas that’s paved with gold and lush poker venues. The pair married in Vegas, but Gravesen and his new wife have since decided to return to Denmark after eight years living in Nevada.

Back in football after missing the game, despite his glamorous Nevada lifestyle

Gravesen was quick to admit that he “missed football” and “all teethings around it,” so a role as a TV pundit was an opportunity the Dane felt was too good to miss. Having represented his country at Euro 2000, the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004, Gravesen remains a highly respected football personality in the country.

Personality is undoubtedly something Gravesen brought to British football too. His fiery but friendly persona was very relatable with supporters, but many of his team-mates had no idea how to handle him.

Former Everton team-mate, Kevin Campbell regaled a story about Gravesen in a recent podcast with Under The Cosh, which underlined Dane’s eccentric nature. Campbell recalled the time when Gravesen owned three high-end supercars – a Porsche Turbo, an F-150, and a BMW X5. Campbell said that one pre-season, Gravesen sold all three, only to replace them with a “Y-reg Nissan green Micra.” Campbell said that Gravesen “loved” his Micra because “nobody knows who [he is] in this car.”

It wasn’t just the Everton fans who held Gravesen close to their hearts either. Celtic fans were very enamoured with him, too, despite the fact he failed to scale the heights of his Everton form at Celtic Park, following a box-office switch from Real Madrid to Gordon Strachan’s Hoops in 2006. His Celtic spell was one of his few regrets in football, admitting that he “wasn’t in Glasgow long enough,” despite enjoying “every minute.” Two goals against Celtic’s ‘old enemy,’ Glasgow Rangers certainly helped win the fans over.

Either way, Gravesen is widely regarded as a dying breed of mavericks in the football world, where the multi-billion-pound deals and partnerships have made the game all the more clinical. How ‘Mad Dog’ would fare in today’s football industry is anyone’s guess, but one thing you could guarantee is that it wouldn’t be boring.