Football's Next Star winner lands manager job 14 years after signing for Inter Milan

Ben Greenhalgh is the new manager of Margate FC. (Image: @margate_fc)

From Inter Milan to Margate might appear a spectacular fall from grace, but for Ben Greenhalgh it’s a career path that signifies a unique story. The 32-year-old has just been made manager of the Isthmian League South East Division side, 14 years after he signed for Jose Mourinho’s club in a season where they went on to win a Champions League, Serie A, and Coppa Italia treble.

Not that Greenhalgh played any part of it, having signed for the Italian giants from Welling United after featuring in the Sky One show Football’s Next Star, and was chosen as one of 10 finalists to head to Inter and fight for a six month contract.

The midfielder duly went on to become the competition’s eventual winner, and despite never playing a senior game during his team at the San Siro was actually handed a Champions League winning medal after being part of the travelling squad for the final.

He was even given a new short term deal, and loaned out to Calico Como where he impressed by scoring eight times in 12 games. But he duly returned to England and became something of a journeyman in non-league football, while also spending a campaign in Scotland with Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

But a move to Margate from Tonbridge Angels in 2021 has now resulted in him stepping into management. After the club were relegated from the Isthmian Premier League in 2023/24 Greenhalgh, who has 56 goals for the club in 152 games, has been installed as player manager.

A club statement said: “Margate FC are delighted to announce that Ben Greenhalgh will be player/manager for the 2024/25 campaign. Greenhalgh has been a Blue since the 2021/22 season, where as a player, he lit the blue touch paper, scoring 24 goals and assisting 28 times, becoming an instant fan favourite around Hartsdown Park.

Greenhalgh has also spent a season with Inverness Caledonian Thistle in Scotland. (Image: Getty)

“Since then, he has continued to play and give his all for Margate FC, reaching 100 appearances at the club during the 2022/23 season and surpassing the 50-goal mark, towards the end of last season. Greenhalgh also has experience as part of the coaching team, as he was player/assistant manager, where he helped aid the club on an incredible Kent Senior Cup run which ended with the us lifting the trophy at Priestfield Stadium.”

Greenhalgh has regularly drawn attention during Margate games because of his history with Inter Milan, with his story proving a popular one on social media. And he’s vowed to try and help the club bounce back from a disappointing campaign.

“It’s a privilege to, not only be part of this club as a player, but to join some great managers in the history books of Margate FC, is not something I take for granted,” he said. “I thank the club for this opportunity and look forward to steering us back to winning ways!”

Greenhalgh’s stint in Italy wasn’t the only time he’s crossed paths with footballing royalty. He was previously deemed to bare an uncanny resemblance to Cristiano Ronaldo, a notion that earned him some lucrative work.

He was used as the icon’s body double in television adverts, and as a result met ‘CR7’ on numerous occasions. He also worked as a body double for ex-Chelsea and Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa.