Law agencies across Europe fear any celeb is at risk in the Spanish resorts where Britons flock for sunshine holidays.The player, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was targeted while visiting the area at the end of last year's football season. But the plan was aborted at the last minute.Ex-British intelligence agent Paul Grimshaw, now a security consultant in Marbella, said: "Crime gangs from Eastern Europe and Russian are moving in. The area is teeming with wealth."They don't care who they target as long as there is money to be earned. The footballer was picked out for that reason."They got cold feet. But reliable sources are adamant that a highprofile celebrity kidnapping is only a matter of time. Footballers, especially wealthy ones, should be vigilant at all times."Grimshaw revealed the threat of kidnap is scaring the wealthy away from Spain. He said: "Former England manager Steve McClaren sold his villa last year over fears about the rising crime rate. The Qatar royal family has not visited its 14-bedroom home in Marbella for nearly five years and will probably never return."A personal security officer for Spanish-based CCS24Gibraltar said: "I've worked on the Costa del Sol for ten years and crime has never been worse. It's dangerous and frightening. Kidnappings, drug-trafficking and robberies happen all the time."High walls and cameras don't deter these criminals. If they want to get you - they will."Leeds-born Grimshaw, 46, alerted the Football Association and the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) to the soccer star plot. He wrote in August: "An England player was the target of a kidnap plot after the Champions League Final in Moscow in 2008. It is believed the player was pinpointed at either a training camp or during a vacation in southern Spain."Anybody travelling abroad should review their security arrangements. This threat was not limited to one player."Pfa chief executive Gordon Taylor said: "We can't afford not to take information like this seriously in this day and age.
"Liverpool's Steven Gerrard and Everton's Phil Jagielka were targeted by burglars. Spurs player Wilson Palacios' brother Edwin was kidnapped in Honduras in May. Wilson paid a £125,000 ransom but Edwin was murdered."There is precedent for snatching soccer stars. Manchester United ace Dimitar Berbatov was kidnapped in his native Bulgaria while an 18-year-old with CSKA Sofia. He was freed unharmed but recalled yesterday: "It was a horrific ordeal."Grimshaw, who has lived in Spain for 20 years, warned: "Abduction worries have rocketed, particularly in Marbella."The Russian Mafia has been gaining ground in Spain since the last property boom made it an attractive place to launder money. They prey on the rich - and will stop at nothing.In June, four Russians grabbed a man in the street in Estepona and told him he would die within 24 hours unless he paid them £12,000. He escaped after being tortured for two days. Some gangs are Kosovan Albanians, often ex-soldiers. Others are Romanian and Lithuanian.The family of property developer Frank Capa - a pal of Rod Stewart - paid a £1 million for his release after he was kidnapped in Marbella in 2004.Ian Watmore of the FA confirmed they were reviewing player security after Grimshaw's tip. A security officer added: "Famous footballers and celebrities are sitting ducks. I advise them to choose their friends carefully."