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Did Tom Brady’s return to sport spark downfall of a fairytale marriage asks TOM LEONARD 

Even as U.S. President, Donald Trump was a shameless name-dropper and there were no names he loved to drop more than those of Tom and Gisele.

His old pal Tom had ‘not been the same’, he once assured a suitably impressed state governor, since he had married Gisele and she’d insisted on him following a ferociously rigid health-conscious diet.

The Tom and Gisele in question were, of course, American Football superstar Tom Brady and his Brazilian supermodel wife Gisele Bundchen.

And, although Brady politely tried to play down his connection to the polarising president, it was never difficult to see why they’d be the aces in the pack when it came to Trump boasting about his celebrity pals.

As the quarterback who has led his teams — first the New England Patriots and then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — to ten appearances and seven victories at the Super Bowl, Brady is one of America’s greatest living sporting stars. And what’s more, he’s done it all while looking like a model plucked from a Ralph Lauren photo shoot.

Such a Greek God, of course, deserves a suitably impressive consort and Americans were entirely unsurprised when, in 2009, Brady married Bundchen.

America is holding its collective breath following reports that power couple Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen (pictured) are heading for the divorce courts

Known as the ‘Boobs from Brazil’, the former Victoria’s Secret lingerie model was widely hailed as the world’s most beautiful woman, and has graced more than 1,200 magazine covers over the course of her career.

Within two years of their intimate wedding at the oceanfront villa in Costa Rica which Bundchen’s ex-boyfriend Leonardo DiCaprio had given her as a present, they were crowned — by business magazine Forbes — as the world’s highest-paid celebrity couple.

Indeed, they have sometimes been hailed as the U.S. answer to Posh and Becks, and the parallel is valid, although — this being the U.S. — they’re richer and far glitzier than David and Victoria Beckham.

No wonder, then, that America is holding its collective breath following reports that the celebrity couple are heading for the divorce courts.

Neither Brady nor Bundchen have confirmed they’re separating but sources close to them say they have both hired lawyers ‘to explore their options’ over dividing their estimated £580 million fortune and agreeing custody for their two young children.

They have reportedly been living apart for months following an ‘epic fight’ over the summer that prompted Gisele to quit their Florida home and relocate to Costa Rica.

Bundchen had repeatedly made it clear in interviews that she wanted her husband to spend more time at home, and that if he's got any 'unfinished business' it's as a father to their children Benjamin, 12 (front right), and Vivian (front left), nine. Brady has another son Jack, 15 (back left)

Bundchen had repeatedly made it clear in interviews that she wanted her husband to spend more time at home, and that if he’s got any ‘unfinished business’ it’s as a father to their children Benjamin, 12 (front right), and Vivian (front left), nine. Brady has another son Jack, 15 (back left)

Over the past week, the woman whose modelling career started after she was discovered, aged 14, at a McDonald’s in Sao Paulo, Brazil, has repeatedly been photographed without her wedding ring.

‘I never actually thought this argument would be the end of them, but it looks like it is,’ one source told the New York Post. ‘I don’t think there will be any coming back now.

‘They both have lawyers and are looking at what a split will entail, who gets what and what the finances will be.’

Although insiders say there have been various reasons for the separation, it is said that a major factor has been Brady’s surprising decision earlier this year, after just 40 days of retirement, to return at the age of 44 to a sport where the average retirement age is just 27.

‘These past two months I’ve realised my place is still on the field and not in the stands,’ Brady announced in March.

‘That time will come. But it’s not now. I love my team mates, and I love my supportive family. They make it all possible. I’m coming back for my 23rd season in Tampa. Unfinished business.’

Over the past week, the woman whose modelling career started after she was discovered, aged 14, at a McDonald's in Sao Paulo, Brazil, has repeatedly been photographed without her wedding ring. She is seen sporting the simple gold band at the Met Gala in 2018

Over the past week, the woman whose modelling career started after she was discovered, aged 14, at a McDonald’s in Sao Paulo, Brazil, has repeatedly been photographed without her wedding ring. She is seen sporting the simple gold band at the Met Gala in 2018

To Bundchen, 42, who gave up her catwalk career seven years ago, primarily to devote more time to her family, this statement of intent can hardly have gone down well.

‘She was so happy when he announced his retirement,’ said a source close to the couple. Bundchen had repeatedly made it clear in interviews that she wanted her husband to spend more time at home, and that if he’s got any ‘unfinished business’ it’s as a father to their children, Benjamin, 12, and Vivian, nine. Brady has another son Jack, 15.

Set up by a mutual friend, Brady met Bundchen on a blind date in late 2006, their romance only slightly marred when his ex-girlfriend, actress Bridget Moynahan, later gave birth to Jack after becoming pregnant in the same month he’d met Bundchen.

Bundchen had ended a five-year relationship with DiCaprio in 2005 after realising she and the playboy film star were no longer compatible. (DiCaprio reportedly told friends they split up because he was afraid of marriage.)

But she had no such doubts about Brady, gushing: ‘The moment I saw him he smiled and I was, like, that is the most beautiful, charismatic smile I’ve ever seen! We sat and talked for three hours . . . From the first day we met, we have never spent one day without speaking to each other.’

The couple married in 2009, having two ceremonies — one in California as well as the one in Costa Rica — which were so glamorous that even their three dogs wore floral lace Dolce & Gabbana collars.

Neither Brady nor Bundchen have confirmed they're separating but sources close to them say they have both hired lawyers 'to explore their options' over dividing their estimated £580million fortune and agreeing custody for their two young children

Neither Brady nor Bundchen have confirmed they’re separating but sources close to them say they have both hired lawyers ‘to explore their options’ over dividing their estimated £580million fortune and agreeing custody for their two young children

For years, there was no sign of friction in their seemingly idyllic marriage, even when Brady’s star power started to out-pace Bundchen’s, a development which can often upset the balance in relationships between super- celebrity couples.

Bundchen, who has recently been modelling for Burberry, is estimated to be worth £360 million, while Brady is said to have a net worth of £224 million.

He is ninth on Forbes’ 2022 list of highest-paid sportsmen, with the magazine estimating he earns nearly £75 million a year, more than £45 million of that in endorsements.

And when he finally retires, he has a job waiting for him at broadcaster Fox Sports, where he has signed a ten-year, £336 million deal as a football analyst. Even as millions saw them as the ultimate embodiment of the American Dream, Bundchen was warning that their relationship is ‘never the fairy tale people want to believe it is’, and that, especially after having children, keeping it going could be a challenge.

When Brady left the New England Patriots and moved south to Florida’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020, she agreed to uproot the family but decided to educate their children at home. ‘I didn’t want to put them in a school, because it takes a lot to adapt to a new town,’ she explained. ‘They left all their friends in Boston . . . I needed to create a soft landing.’

Bundchen said she created their curriculum — which includes cooking and gardening — with the help of a teacher.

Known as the 'Boobs from Brazil', the former Victoria's Secret lingerie model (pictured in 2003) was widely hailed as the world's most beautiful woman, and has graced more than 1,200 magazine covers over the course of her career

Known as the ‘Boobs from Brazil’, the former Victoria’s Secret lingerie model (pictured in 2003) was widely hailed as the world’s most beautiful woman, and has graced more than 1,200 magazine covers over the course of her career

Since Brady ‘unretired’, she has been blunt about her feelings.

‘His focus is on his career, mine is mostly on the kids,’ she told Vogue in May. ‘And I’m very grateful that he lets me take the reins when it comes to our family.’

But she clearly wasn’t grateful that he’d gone back to football.

A few months later, she told Elle: ‘This is a very violent sport, and I have my children and I would like him to be more present,’ she said. ‘I have had those conversations with him over and over again. But ultimately, I feel . . . he needs to follow his joy, too.’

She also stressed that she felt it was time for her to get a break from raising a family — she wants to do more work as an environmental campaigner and is also writing a cookbook — saying: ‘I’ve done my part, which is [to] be there for [Tom]. I moved to Boston, and I focused on creating a cocoon and a loving environment for my children, and to be there supporting him and his dreams.’

Weeks after that interview, in August the workaholic Brady surprised football-watchers by taking an 11-day break from the Buccaneers’ training camp for ‘personal reasons’.

Typically, he was rather less forthcoming than his wife about the problems at home. ‘I’m 45 years old, man. There’s a lot of s*** going on, so you just have to try and figure out life the best you can,’ he told reporters. ‘You know, it’s a continuous process.’ Both sides now appear to be trying to have their say in what is likely to be a battle for public sympathy.

Even as U.S. President, Donald Trump was a shameless name-dropper and there were no names he loved to drop more than those of Tom and Gisele. Pictured: Brady and Trump in 2005

Even as U.S. President, Donald Trump was a shameless name-dropper and there were no names he loved to drop more than those of Tom and Gisele. Pictured: Brady and Trump in 2005

‘Gisele has always been the one with the kids,’ said one source. ‘They had agreed he would retire to focus on the family, then he changed his mind.’

But another insider countered: ‘They have a fiery relationship. Gisele is a bit hot-headed — she has that Brazilian heat!’

Whatever her temperature now, the truth is she’s been expressing misgivings about her husband’s profession for years. Although heavily padded and helmeted, American football is notoriously dangerous because of the high frequency of head injuries.

Research shows that repeated concussions can increase the chance of serious brain damage, leading to dementia, Parkinson’s disease and mental health issues such as depression.

One of Brady’s ex-team mates, Junior Seau, who killed himself in 2012, was found to have developed a degenerative brain condition often found in athletes who have suffered head trauma.

In 2017, Bundchen revealed her husband had a history of concussion which alarmed her as he chose to continue playing into his 40s.

‘He had a concussion last year. He has concussions pretty much every . . . I mean, we don’t talk about it,’ she said. ‘I don’t really think it’s a healthy thing for your body to go through that kind of aggression.’

She added: ‘I’m planning on him being healthy and doing a lot of fun things when we’re 100, I hope.’

The couple reportedly own properties worth £23 million, including a two-acre site on Miami's ultra-exclusive Indian Creek private island, which they bought for £15 million, and where they have been building an 'eco-mansion' for their retirement (pictured last month)

The couple reportedly own properties worth £23 million, including a two-acre site on Miami’s ultra-exclusive Indian Creek private island, which they bought for £15 million, and where they have been building an ‘eco-mansion’ for their retirement (pictured last month)

Brady has admitted that ‘if it was up to my wife, she would have me retire today’.

Catastrophic head injuries aside, both of them have revealed that Brady’s steely commitment to the sport has had other drawbacks.

The football season lasts for only 18 weeks a year, but the training goes on solidly for at least six months and Brady has said that he hasn’t celebrated Christmas or Thanksgiving for 23 years.

‘I haven’t celebrated birthdays with people that I care about that are born from August to late January,’ he said. ‘And I’m not able to be at funerals and I’m not able to be at weddings.’

He’ll now have to put a fair amount of time aside for his lawyers if the divorce proceeds.

The couple reportedly own properties worth £23 million, including a two-acre site on Miami’s ultra-exclusive Indian Creek private island, which they bought for £15 million, and where they have been building an ‘eco-mansion’ for their retirement. Other homes include an apartment in Manhattan, that villa in Costa Rica and another one in Montana.

Bundchen believes in astrology and magic and — according to Brady — used them to correctly predict when his team would win or lose at the Super Bowl.

Bundchen took her last catwalk turn aged 34 during Sao Paolo Fashion Week in 2015, watched from the front row by Brady.

At the time, she told a Brazilian newspaper: ‘My body tells me if what I do is worth it, and it asked to stop.’

Fatally, it seems, for their marriage, her husband’s body has made no such communication.

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk