Gary Lineker: is football’s costly talking head too good to be true? | Observer profile

The self-deprecating, ironic Match of the Day presenter has a loyal audience of millions, but freely courts controversy in defence of his beliefs

Negotiating a way through the robust challenges of British celebrity is seldom an easeful task. Few in the public eye escape censure and even fewer manage to avoid succumbing to bitterness or the kind of acute sensitivity known only to those who have had their inner lives splashed across the outer pages of the press.

A rare exception is Gary Lineker, who returned last night for his 18th season as the Match of the Day presenter. If he has come of age in the job, the former England striker seems to have retained a boyish enthusiasm for life in the spotlight, albeit weighted with a just-so amount of irony and self-deprecation. He also holds the affection of a sizable chunk of the nation. The two are probably not unrelated.

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