The denial suggests that the source for the Beckham story is more likely to be someone with physical access to his phone or to the phone of his mistress.

The spokesperson said Vodafone keeps information on calls made for billing purposes for up to a year. They added that their policy on text data was standard industry practice among other mobile providers.

Despite this, there already exists a precedent for mobile operator employees accessing the content of text messages. In 2002, two engineers were sacked after passing on text messages detailing the infidelity of their friend