Footballer Ryan Giggs was an idol on the pitch but an abusive "gaslighter" of his ex-girlfriend in his private life, a British court has heard.

Behind his public persona the former Manchester United and Wales international footballer, accused of headbutting his ex-girlfriend, had a "much uglier and more sinister side to his character", Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester heard.

Jurors were told the 48-year-old's private life involved a "litany of abuse, both physical and psychological, of a woman he professed to love".

Mr Giggs denies using controlling and coercive behaviour against his ex-girlfriend Kate Greville between August 2017 and November 2020.

He has also pleaded not guilty to assaulting the 36-year-old PR executive, causing her actual bodily harm, and of the common assault of her younger sister, Emma Greville, at his home in Worsley, Greater Manchester, on 1 November 2020.

Opening the case, prosecutor Peter Wright QC said of the defendant: "He was idolised by his adoring fans and supporters.

"On the pitch his skills were abundant and a thing of beauty.

"Off the pitch, in the privacy of his own personal life at home or behind closed doors, there was, we say the facts reveal, a much uglier and more sinister side to his character.

"This was a private life that involved a litany of abuse, both physical and psychological, of a woman he professed to love."

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Mr Wright said after Ms Greville decided to leave him, Mr Giggs "lost control" and assaulted her at his home in Worsley, Greater Manchester, on 1 November 2020.

Earlier that night while out together with friends at Manchester's Stock Exchange Hotel, Ms Greville decided to terminate their relationship.

She knew Mr Giggs had "once again" been cheating on her and decided to leave the restaurant early.

Mr Wright continued: "As she was vacating the defendant's home address, he came back and began arguing with her and trying to stop her leaving."

A heated argument followed and Mr Giggs then attempted to grab her phone. They grappled together on the floor before Ms Greville's sister stepped in.

Mr Wright said: "She (Emma Greville) tried to pull the defendant off her sister.

"For her pains the defendant, we say, deliberately elbowed her in the jaw causing her discomfort and shock that he would turn violence on to her as well her sister.

"The argument between the defendant and Kate Greville moved to the kitchen. The couple continued to argue about her mobile phone.

"At that stage, we say, the defendant entirely lost self-control and he deliberately headbutted Kate, thereby causing swelling to her lips and bruising."

But jurors heard the alleged assault was the culmination of a "litany" of years of abuse during the "toxic" relationship between the defendant and Ms Greville, more than 10 years younger than him.

Mr Giggs would threaten to send images of her, "of a personal nature", to her friends unless she did what he said, it was alleged.

He threw her, and her belongings, out of an address they were staying at, after Ms Greville challenged him about another woman and threw an item at her in a bust-up in a hotel room in London, the jury heard.

He would also turn up "unwanted" at her house or the gym she used.

Mr Wright gave the jury a flavour of some of the "thousands" of messages the pair exchanged.

He cited one from Mr Giggs, which stated: "Please unblock me. All this blocking malarkey is poo. Promise, no more naked piccies."

Mr Giggs also sent Ms Greville an email, the court heard, with the subject line saying, "C***!!!" calling her an "evil, horrible c***."

Mr Giggs continued, 'I'm so f***** mad right now I'm scaring myself because I could do anything'.

Mr Wright said this provided a "shaft of light" on the real Mr Giggs, who "stays in the dark, not the public persona".

The prosecutor said Mr Giggs' behaviour became more controlling and coercive, calculated to erode Ms Greville's self-worth and portraying himself as the victim.

Mr Wright added: "We say it was a deliberate course of conduct by him, calculated to gaslight her into doubting herself and her instincts."

Chris Daw QC, defending Mr Giggs, said the ex-footballer accepted he was "far from perfect" during his relationship with Ms Greville but there were "lines he would never cross" and the alleged headbutt a "ridiculous lie".

Mr Giggs stood down in June as manager of the Wales national team following a period of leave since November 2020.

The jury of seven men and five women will continue hearing the case tomorrow.