ENGLAND’S Premier League stars have been warned they are risking their lives and those of their families amid a growing crime wave.
Their homes are being targeted by machete and knife-wielding mobs, many from Ukraine and Albania.
But a top security expert insists they are not taking the threat seriously enough.
Former SAS man Des Steel declared: “At some point one of these attacks is going to end in a tragedy.
“Someone is going to get killed or a player is going to lose his knees.
“We are talking about groups of attackers who will stop at nothing.
“All it will take during one of these raids is for a victim to try to take on a thug who is prepared to use his machete or his knife — and plenty are.”
Everton goalkeeper Robin Olsen is the latest to have been hit.
Earlier this month thieves carrying knives broke into his Merseyside home and terrorised the Swede and his family as they ransacked the house.
Last month, his Goodison manager Carlo Ancelotti was left shaken after raiders made off with a safe from his home near Liverpool.
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Two Manchester United stars are also talking to Steel’s security company Chartsec, which is working to try to offer protection to stars in conjunction with former players’ support group Playon Pro.
The list of players who have been attacked or their families subjected to raids reads like a who’s who of the Premier League.
It includes Sadio Mane, Dele Alli, Wayne Rooney, Joey Barton and Fabinho.
Two years ago, a moped gang attempted to steal £200,000 worth of watches from then-Arsenal team-mates Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac before the latter chased them off.
Steel speaks with the authority of someone who spent 15 years with the Royal Marines and SAS.
He said: “Many of these groups are Ukrainian and Albanian and, believe me, they do their due diligence.
“They are highly dangerous and will stop at nothing.
“We are not talking your average burglar here but men who are armed and evil and who will have been watching and waiting to act, sometimes planning in detail for months.
“They will know what kind of security is around a property — and worryingly there is often not a lot.
“But there are fortunes to be had indoors — cash, watches, jewellery — and the chances are that they will already know exactly what they are going in to take.
“Woe betide anyone who gets in their way.
“The homes of footballers are easy pickings for these people and unless they are taken more seriously then you have to fear the worst one day.”
Some players have paid up to £40,000 for specially-trained guard dogs, including Manchester City’s Kyle Walker, Paul Pogba of Manchester United and Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish.
But Steel, also a hostile environment trainer, revealed: “These gangs are evil but they are not stupid — confronted with one of those dogs they would shoot them, mace them or leave poisoned meat out to kill them.
“The big danger is that these players are worth millions and millions but too many of them don’t feel the need to pay a few thousand pounds to protect themselves and their families.”
Former United and England defender Viv Anderson, head of Playon Pro, stressed: “The more we have investigated what is becoming a crisis, the more we realise that many players and their families are sitting ducks.”
Steel also believes England’s highest-profile players should invest in covert security when they travel abroad on holiday or simply go out for an evening meal.
He said: “Harry Maguire got arrested in Greece last year and faced criminal charges after a day out went wrong.
“Had he had a couple of security men in the background and shadowing him, it wouldn’t have happened.
“When things looked like they were getting out of hand he’d have been tapped on the shoulder and told quietly, ‘Time to leave, things are not safe here’.”