Scotland's most successful female footballer has revealed Italian officials wanted to set her up in an arranged marriage so she could keep playing for the country.

Rose Reilly told how it was suggested to her that she marry an elderly Italian man in a nursing home so she could secure citizenship.

The striker moved from Stewarton, Ayrshire, to Italy as a teenager to play club football and was later selected to play for the national side.

The move led to her winning the 1984 version of the women’s World Cup, being named female world footballer of the year and becoming a household name in her adopted homeland.

Rose Reilly during her playing days in Italy

She was only able to play for Italy as women’s football had yet to come under the official umbrella of governing bodies Fifa and Uefa.

However, when they took over a few years later and introduced citizenship eligibility rules to the women’s game, the president of the Italian women’s football federation came up with a plan to keep their star player.

Rose, 65, said she turned down the offer because of her Catholic upbringing and out of fear of what her mother would say.

She said: “In those days every nation had their own federations.

“But then Fifa and Uefa decided they would take over women’s football with their rules and regulations.

“I still hadn’t been naturalised as Italian so I didn’t get banned but I wasn’t allowed to play.

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“Actually, the president in Italy said, ‘How do you fancy marrying some old guy in a nursing home?’

“I said, ‘God, I’m from a Catholic family’. My mother would have bloody killed me.”

Speaking on the Blethered podcast, Rose joked: “Nowadays I think, ‘See if he was a millionaire, I should have
done it’.”

At the age of 17, Rose left Ayrshire to become a pro footballer in Europe.

After winning the league with Reims in France, she moved to AC Milan and picked up two titles.

She played for nine Italian clubs over 20 years, winning eight league titles and four Italian Cups. She won the Golden Boot in 1978, scoring 43 goals for Catania, and in 1981, hitting 45 for Lecce.

The Scot finally settled in Bari, where she met Argentinian doctor Norberto Peralta, who was treating her for an injury at the time. They later married.

She retired from top-level football at the age of 40, before moving back to
Scotland to care for her mum.

She was awarded an MBE and has been inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame.