Gang who burgled footballers' homes during games is broken up by police

18 October 2019, 01:17 | Updated: 28 October 2019, 15:26

Police in Spain have broken up a gang suspected of robbing the houses of high-profile footballers during games.

Footballers such as Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey and striker Alvaro Morata, as well as Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane, were all thought to be targeted by the gang.

Officers arrested four Albanian nationals during an operation in Madrid and the nearby city of Toledo after seizing jewels and €11,000 (£9,500) in cash that were believed to belong to the players and their families.

The arrests were first reported by Spanish media, which said police recovered a Champions League medal belonging to Partey, as well as his passport.

Spanish authorities believe the gang also burgled the home of the Brazilian Real Madrid player Casemiro while he was playing in a derby against Atletico Madrid in September.

They also think that Real Madrid forward Francisco "Isco" Alarcon was targeted by the gang.

It was not just Madrid-based players that fell victim to burglaries, with Barcelona players Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti and Jordi Alba also reporting they had been targeted.

Dozens of burglaries by players have been reported to police over the last few years, but authorities had been hesitant to link them all to the same gang.

Spanish police have said that their operation is ongoing, and have not ruled out making further arrests.

They also believe that one of the gang members has fled the country.

During the burglaries, officials said the gang used stolen cars and carried communication devices and clothing to avoid being recognised by security cameras, as well as monitoring what players were doing through their social media accounts.

The burglaries have had significant impact on the players and their families.

The wife of Real Madrid player Lucas Vasquez, who is also believed to have been targeted by the gang, said after they were burgled: "One after the other. When will it be possible to live calmly in your own home, when will it be possible to go to work without worries?"

Talking about the incidents, French footballing icon Zidane recently said at a news conference: "These things aren't nice, we try to talk to the players, to their families, we try to keep them calm."