Former captain of Manchester United, ex-England full back, Sky TV pundit, assistant England manager, erstwhile boss of Spanish La Liga club Valencia, property developer, football club owner, hotelier, best man at David and Victoria Beckham’s wedding….and now reportedly drawing up plans to set up a university.
Not bad for a Bury lad. His own “graduation” – apart from his honorary doctorate bestowed by the University of Salford and his honorary degree from Bolton University – came as a member of Old Trafford’s legendary Class of ’92 from which he emerged, alongside his brother Phil, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs, to propel Manchester United to Premiership dominance.
In a career spanning almost 20 years at United, his only club, he made more than 500 appearances in all competitions and his medals tally – eight Premiership titles, three FA Cup, two League Cup and two European Champions League medals – must be amongst the very best in the game. On top of all that he won 85 England caps.
Yet his career path since he played his last match for United at West Bromwich on New Year’s Day 2011 has, in many ways, been even more astounding.
The first inkling that Gary Neville wasn’t about to become your average ex-footballer came when he forsook living in a mansion in Cheshire’s Golden Triangle and had a remarkable underground eco-house built in the hills north of Bolton instead.
And no sooner had Neville – 42 in five days time – hung up his boots than he announced that he and Ryan Giggs were going into the hospitality business – not with just a restaurant but with a £24m hotel. The 133 room Hotel Football opened next door to Old Trafford in 2015.
A second hotel, developed from the former Manchester stock exchange building bought by Neville and Giggs for £1.5m in 2013, is in the pipeline and, more controversially, the pair’s multi-million St Michael’s development – which includes two skyscrapers, hotel and split level plaza in Jackson’s Row off Albert Square – is in the planning stages.
The Class of 92 also bought Salford City and have seen the club this year challenging for promotion from the National League North.
The university idea – offering sports, media and business degrees – marks a completely new departure. It could be one of several permitted to open once a new Bill relaxing restrictions on private companies setting up universities passes through Parliament and becomes law.
It would be the Class of 92 Ltd – in which Beckham, Giggs, Butt, Scholes and Phil Neville all have a stake – which establishes the venture, but it is more than likely that Gary Neville is the driving force.
He said this week: “I have been working on a feasibility study for some months on an exciting educational project but by no means is it ready to speak about in detail.”
Neville, married with two daughters, and his former team mates are said to be keen to provide opportunities for the next general of young people.
In the past, Neville has said that his boss at United, Sir Alex Ferguson, always impressed on his players that they should be proud of working hard.
It seems that his advice hasn’t fallen on deaf ears.