MOST football biographers fret about collecting enough colourful anecdotes about their subject to make a worthwhile book. Christopher Sweeney’s biggest problem when it came to researching the life story of Thomas Gravesen was keeping it to one volume. So many tales of the unexpected are out there about this maverick former Celtic, Everton, Real Madrid and Denmark midfielder that it is possible to imagine him doing pretty much anything.

Via his agent, then his old Vejle pal John Sivebaek, Gravesen declined to co-operate with Sweeney’s book ‘Mad Dog Gravesen – the last of the footballing mavericks’ [Pitch Publishing] but the more the author learned about his subject the more his respect grew. “He just lived for the moment, with no thought of consequences, or tomorrow,” Sweeney told Herald and Times Sport. “I quite admire him in that sense. He went out and did it his way, didn’t compromise.”

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Nowhere are they more proud of Gravesen than in his hometown of Vejle, where he is back living to this day in a penthouse flat, after eight years living on Millionaire’s Row in Las Vegas next door to the likes of Nicolas Cage and Andre Agassi. The first hint of the hair-trigger temper which was part of his public persona came in the youth ranks where flare-ups were so regular that he was taught by an early coach to imagine he was taking three smooth stones out of his pocket and throwing them away, a trick which allowed him to calm down when confrontations arose.

Before long, he was off to Hamburg, a happy period of his career where he would zoom back off to Denmark on a motorbike between training sessions and once decided to enliven a recovery session at the training ground by covering the entire fitness and spa area with foam and bubbles and sliding through the building naked. Let’s just say it was something of a culture shock when he first encountered Scottish footballing culture in the form of Walter Smith and Archie Knox at Everton.

“As soon as I mentioned Thomas Gravesen to Archie, he took a deep breath and just said ‘what a boy’,” recalls Sweeney. “They didn’t know the guy they were getting. They saw him playing for Denmark and knew he was a good footballer, they just couldn’t expect that kind of personality. They would talk to him and he would listen but it would just go in one ear and out the other.

“Maybe Davie Weir put it best, in that he would just get obsessed by things,” he added. “He would become really good at pool because he practised a lot. Or very good at Call of Duty. At Hamburg, when the coach called all the player round to have a chat, he would just ignore them and keeps hitting free kicks.”

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From there it was off to Real Madrid, where Fabio Capello would make much of the same mistakes. But his team-mates speak highly of him, even despite the odd training ground scrap with the likes of Ronaldo and Robinho. “When you look at the top ten worst Real Madrid transfers or the biggest flops, quite often you see Thomas Gravesen on that list,” said Sweeney. “But if you actually look at the statistics, he goes there and he plays. He plays most of the Champions league games, El Clasico, he is there for 18 months under three different managers, and each time he gets back in the team and plays. His team-mates are complimentary of him.

“He goes from a childhood sweetheart and starts dating a famous porn star, Kira Eggers, so the attention on him was massive. When Capello came in andstarted treating people like schoolkids, that was only going to alienate him.”

It is 11 years now since Gravesen first turned up at Celtic, a period which would see him play 22 times, scoring six goals, two of which game in Old Firm matches. If the club were entitled to expect a greater return, Sweeney feels that the main area of friction was Gordon Strachan’s desire to control a free spirit who lived by his own rules.

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“Most Celtic fans I spoke to were kind of mystified, they thought the transfer would have worked out perfectly, because he was passionate, and probably understood the culture as he came from Scandinavia, it seemed like a match made in heaven. He was the highest paid player in Scotland at the time, £40,000 a week plus a loyalty bonus, for a total of 7m over three years. But I think Strachan tried to put rules on him and that was never really going to work. In the end, I felt they treated him quite badly.

“In the Scottish Cup final in 2007 against Dunfermline he is up in the stand, with Teddy Bjarnason on the bench, trying to make a point, ‘I’ll show you’. He ended up going on an Under-21 trip to Celtic against Donegal Celtic and other clubs. He was on the phone to Willie McStay, begging to go.”