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Mykanos was overrun by Russian billionaires… Now, thanks to Covid, it’s drunken footballers

As an island best known until recently for its windmills, Mykonos seemed the perfect destination for some post-lockdown R&R. 

Sunshine, stunning seafood, the odd cocktail and some good books were what I envisaged when I booked my summer holiday there. I had imagined it as classy, if a little flash, with beautiful beaches and intimate restaurants.

But on arrival, it didn’t take long to realise that it wasn’t all that different from the glitzy Spanish resort of Marbella, where in my 20s I enjoyed many a summer partying in overpriced bars alongside Premier League footballers and television stars.

Now here I was watching Love Island contestants pose for selfies while I sunbathed at my hotel pool. A gaggle of girls, preening for millions of television viewers and pouting as they desperately tried to get ‘the shot’ for their social media pages, was a sight to behold.

Just 33 square miles in size, Mykonos lies 93 miles south east of Athens in the Aegean. Its rich history includes periods spent under the control of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires, before Greek independence in 1830. According to mythology, Mykonos is named after its first leader – said to be a direct descendant of the god Apollo.

While the island now finds itself in the news after the arrest there of Manchester United and England footballer Harry Maguire, it is only relatively recently that it has become a glamorous destination for the world’s wealthiest and most famous.

Mykonos enjoyed a spell of popularity during the 1960s following visits by Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren and Maria Callas.

But it is only in the past three years that high-profile holidaymakers such as Leonardo DiCaprio, model Kendall Jenner and Tom Hanks have turned it once more into a haunt of the stars.

It is also a destination favoured by the mega-rich. Mykonos drips with cash – much of it belonging to Russian oligarchs who use it as their new playground.

Among them is steel billionaire Viktor Rashnikov, who has been known to sail in aboard his £230 million, 450ft yacht Ocean Victory. Other visitors include Kazakh finance tycoon Alexander Mashkevitch, whose yacht, the Lady Lara, is a slightly more modest 300ft in length.

But this year, with quarantine rules being enforced for anyone holidaying in Spain, Mykonos is having its moment with the wider public.

But simply being there is not enough. It’s all about conspicuous wealth and therefore, all about ‘the Gram’.

Getting a photo out there, filtered to an inch of its life, posting it on Instagram and counting up the ‘likes’, has become what a stay on this idyllic island is all about.

Seeking out the beauty spots which will look best for Instagram has become top of the holiday ‘to do’ list. Even if you don’t mean to, you find yourself drawn into the ‘selfie’ culture.

Beach clubs such as Scorpio have become even busier, as well-toned holidaymakers flock there for a €34 cocktail and a snap of themselves, just to prove they’ve been there. ‘Sceney’ is the buzz word.

Image is everything in Mykonos and, at times, you feel like you’re caught up in a never-ending, outdoor beauty pageant.

This summer it has almost become a status symbol to have been there and, since my return two weeks ago, I’ve been inundated with questions about my break.

Most of them have come from people eager to book before the holiday season is over. Everybody, it seems, wants a piece of it.

Even Soho House, the global private members’ club which is owned by Nick Jones and run by Meghan Markle’s best friend Marcus Anderson, opened its latest venue there last month.

The paparazzi are there too, many invited by the increasing number of reality stars who are landing on Mykonos for their summer holidays. One celebrity I bumped into in the early hours was dashing back to their hotel, explaining: ‘I’ve got to go – I’ve got to get to bed. I’m meeting the paps at 10am.’

And now, as we all know, the Premier League footballers have discovered it as well.

Liverpool’s Trent Alexander Arnold flew in by private jet while I was there, and last week it was his England team-mate Maguire’s turn. The player went on holiday with his fiancee, model Fern Hawkins, mother of his two children, after his side’s 2-1 defeat to Sevilla in the Europa League semi-finals last Sunday.

According to witnesses, trouble flared after Maguire and his friends had been on a marathon drinking session at some of Mykonos’s most exclusive bars.

The Manchester United captain began last Thursday’s bender at the SantAnna beach bar on the southern tip of the island, with a group that included his United team-mates Marcus Rashford and Brandon Williams, snooker player Judd Trump and, unsurprisingly, Love Island alumni Chris Hughes.

This is no normal bar. It has seven miniature man-made islands – each with its own butler – and a helipad for the type of guests who don’t hail taxis.

Pouring from a $400 bottle of Jack Daniel’s, Maguire knocked back cocktails before moving on to the Bonbonniere club, where bottles of champagne are served in giant replica Faberge eggs.

It is not clear if anybody from the party he had been with earlier was present when the trouble started.

Witnesses told Mail Online that a group of drunken British men began baiting Maguire and even made sick references to the 1958 Munich air disaster, when seven Manchester United players were among 23 people who died as a result of a plane crash when returning from a match.

Most European sunshine resorts have police officers on patrol who stand out thanks to their uniforms, but the authorities have adopted a different approach in Mykonos.

It was pointed out to me on my first night that plain-clothes officers were the norm on the island.

I looked on as a group of them entered several bars on a strip in Mykonos Town, telling managers of the establishments to turn off the music.

There were rumours that they had shut down one bar after complaints that social distancing wasn’t being adhered to.

As for my holiday, it definitely wasn’t what I was expected.

As I sat sipping my first Aperol Spritz a few hours after landing, in a waterside bar named Caprice in the Little Venice quarter of Mykonos Town – about 200 yards from where Maguire would a few days later be arrested – it felt like paradise.

Hours later, I was in a vast, bustling and very expensive restaurant called Sea Satin, dining with The Only Way Is Essex star Gemma Collins.

As she enjoyed the final night of her holiday, she let slip that the trip had set her back a staggering £10,000.

That night, we bumped into several Love Island stars posing for pictures with fans.

Perhaps it was inevitable that moneybags footballers would follow the trail to Mykonos.

But while Maguire’s alleged antics might have blighted the reputation of this beautiful island in the short term, it remains one of my favourite destinations.

And I have to agree… it’s definitely best for The Gram. 

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