Madonna the soccer mom: In her oddest reinvention yet, pop Queen moves to Portugal to help her son become a football star (and show the world she is a good mother)
She prides herself on being the Queen of Reinvention, a style and pop icon who has morphed effortlessly over the decades from slick Material Girl, to sex goddess in a bullet-bra, to Kabbalah-chanting yogi.
At one point she even became Lady of the Manor complete with country estate and an ‘English’ accent during her ill-fated marriage to Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels director Guy Ritchie. Now it seems Madonna is embarking on her most radical, and unexpected, shift to date. It’s the wholescale yet decidedly unglamorous transformation into a ‘soccer mom’ – a T-shirt-wearing symbol of suburban America, who spends her life shouting encouragement from the sidelines.
The Mail on Sunday has established that the 58-year-old singer is planning to uproot her family from their New York home and relocate 3,300 miles to Portugal so that her adopted son David Banda can play in the junior squad of the famous Portuguese club Benfica.
The Queen of Reinvention’s latest move might be to transform herself into a ‘soccer mom’ – a symbol of suburban America
It is said that Madonna has already bought a spectacular £5 million palace in the rolling hills outside Lisbon and is planning to enrol her younger children at the city’s exclusive £30,000-a-year French Lycée.
‘David recently spent a week at Benfica and his prodigious talents impressed everyone,’ a source explained last night.
‘Madonna is determined to give her kids every opportunity in life and this one is too good to pass up. She and the family will be moving to Portugal in time for the new school year in September.’
The star recently spent a two-week holiday in Lisbon, staying in the £13,000-a-night Presidential suite at the Hotel Ritz, and viewed multiple properties in the city before settling on the stunning 18th Century Quinta do Relogio Palace, a Unesco- protected property once owned by a Portuguese nobleman whose colourful life inspired Alexandre Dumas’s novel The Count Of Monte Cristo.
It seems, for the moment at least, that her singing career is on hold.
Madonna is determined to give David Banda, her adopted son from Malawi, ‘every opportunity in life’ – including training with the junior squad of famous Portuguese club Benfica
But why would Madonna, a woman better known for outrageous self-promotion than a keen appreciation of a flat back four, suddenly put her own ambitions on the back-burner?
No doubt it helped her decision to learn that Lisbon is emerging as one of Europe’s ‘hottest’ cities and is already favoured by a string of celebrities including Italian actress Monica Bellucci, fashion designer Christian Louboutin, designer Philippe Starck and former Manchester United footballer Eric Cantona.
But the real answer, says a Hollywood source who knows her well, is more emotional.
‘Madonna lost her own mother very young and her greatest ambition in life is to be the mother she never had,’ he says. ‘However much you might criticise her, she has always wanted what is best for her kids.’
Madonna has said the ‘greatest accomplishment of my life is to be the mother I never knew’
Madonna’s own mother, also called Madonna, died of breast cancer in 1963 when the star was just five years old, and the singer has spoken in the past about her heartbreak.
Just last month she shared a poignant picture of her mother with her 9.6 million Instagram fans, saying: ‘The greatest accomplishment of my life is to be the mother I never knew.’
Yet there is a more immediate motive, too, behind Madonna’s new-found interest in a normal life (or as normal as it can get for a global superstar).
She was left ‘reeling and heart-broken’ over the unseemly court battle that ensued when her 16-year-old son Rocco left New York abruptly in 2015 complaining of her ‘cloying’ ways, and saying that he wished to have a more conventional upbringing with his father Guy Ritchie and stepmother, model Jacqui Ainsley.
A bruising legal fight erupted which saw Madonna stopping midway through a tour to fly to London in an unsuccessful attempt to have Rocco return to America with her. Reports at the time claimed Rocco was ‘fed up’ with
Madonna’s strict house rules, which reportedly include following a macrobiotic diet and an insistence on daily exercise (she claims to do three hours of yoga every day).
Their rift culminated in confiscating his mobile phone when it interfered with his studies – at which point Rocco decided he would much rather be with his laid-back father.
She eventually conceded defeat and allowed Rocco to remain in London with Guy, though mother and son have since been reconciled. ‘Madonna has always been a strict mother and it’s her way or the high way,’ says the source.
‘When Rocco publicly denounced her, she was devastated. It caused a rift which has been healed but it caused Madonna to rethink her parenting techniques. It used to be tough love but now it’s just love. This latest incarnation is a devoted mum who puts her children first.
‘Rebel Madonna has long since gone. She has totally embraced the idea of being a soccer mom.’
Madonna certainly seems proud of her new identity, posting a picture of herself in a baggy black sweatshirt on Instagram with the word ‘Bitch’ written across the image. Underneath she wrote: ‘Because sometimes soccer Moms need to be a…’
Madonna has six children, including the recently adopted four-year-old twins Stella and Esther, who are also from Malawi.
Determined not to repeat her mistake and risk alienating David, she has thrown herself enthusiastically behind the boy’s burgeoning career. Her Instagram account is filled with proud postings about his footballing prowess and includes her wearing a Benfica shirt.
Last week she showed off a picture of David with his teammates from Downtown United Soccer Club, the New York under-14s team he plays for at the moment, with the proclamation: ‘D.U.S.C wins 5-4! David Banda scores the winning goal!’ An earlier post showing David in his kit is accompanied by the message: ‘My Champion!’
Eldest daughter Lourdes, 20, is not expected to make the move to Portugal and will remain in America where she is pursuing a modelling career as the face of Stella McCartney’s fragrance Pop while studying musical theatre.
But the rest of Madonna’s brood – 11-year-old daughter Mercy James, David and the newly adopted twins – are expected to move to Lisbon this summer. Madonna plans to smooth their transition by enrolling them in the French Lycée school in Lisbon (Portuguese is mandatory), a sister institution to the Lycée in Manhattan where the children study at the moment, and the London Lycée, where Lourdes was once a pupil.
The superstar viewed a number of properties in Lisbon, where the local government has made a deliberate policy of attracting wealthy incomers through a low-tax regime and a policy known as ‘visa gold’, which grants automatic residency to non-Europeans who spend more than £500,000 on property.
It’s reported she’s already bought a £5million mansion in the rolling hills above Lisbon
Fans of the city compare it to San Francisco thanks to its steep hills, quaint trams, hilltop homes with spectacular views, burgeoning restaurant scene and thriving arts culture. Property expert Gustavo Soares, of Sotheby’s International Realty, one of the companies used by Madonna, says: ‘To have Madonna looking for properties in Lisbon isn’t just a cool thing, it’s helping to drive up property prices in the city and elsewhere.’
The star is already immersing herself in Lisbon society. Last month, she met Fernando Medina, the city’s mayor, and had dinner at the Michelin-starred Solar dos Nunes restaurant with former Portuguese international footballer Nuno Gomes, who runs the Benfica training scheme which David will join.
She is even rumoured to be dating a Portuguese male model, Kevin Sampaio, 27 years her junior.
Naturally, for a woman with an estimated £500 million fortune, money is no object when it comes to choosing new digs. It is reported that last week she completed the £5 million purchase of Quinta do Relogio (Farm of the Clock Tower) in picturesque Sintra, a four-storey palace complete with private chapel and sprawling park filled with ancient oaks, a lake and grotto.
It is rich in history. Part of a world heritage site, the palace was built by the 15th Count of Redondo in the Moorish Revival style and was considered one of Portugal’s finest palaces until it fell into disrepair.
‘It needs major restoration work,’ a local estate agent said. ‘It needs someone with unlimited funds to restore it. And now it has that.’
A centuries-old cork tree guards the entrance to the palace, above which is carved the motto: ‘God Is The Only Winner.’
In 1835, it was bought by Portuguese nobleman Manuel Pinto de Fonseca, who made a fortune in the Brazilian slave trade.
It was Fonseca’s controversial life that inspired Alexandre Dumas to write a fictionalised account of a man wrongly accused of a crime, who then makes a fortune and returns home to seek revenge.
Wonderful as her new palace sounds, Hollywood sources say that Madonna still intends to keep her £30 million townhouse on New York’s Upper East Side fully staffed. But they insist that she relishes the idea of living in Europe – and, of course, being closer to Rocco in England.
The teenager was recently arrested for marijuana possession and his mother is said to have concerns about some of his friends.
As Rocco’s father Guy has put it: ‘If you live in one of the busiest cities in the world there is an endless deluge of opportunities and temptations. Everyone has to go on their own journey to navigate their way past that gauntlet.’
No wonder that, for the moment at least, Hollywood’s newest soccer mom is keeping a very close eye from the sidelines.