A podcast launch shouldn’t necessarily be big news. After all, the market is so wildly overstuffed that people generally need a new podcast like they need to be pushed down a well. However, The Rest Is Money is no mere podcast. It is the newest installment in the greatest franchise since The Avengers.

Hosted by Steph McGovern and Robert Peston, a former BBC business-news presenter and ITV’s political editor, respectively, The Rest Is Money is a topical overview of the business and finance worlds. And, at the time of writing, it is already the second most popular podcast in Britain, according to Apple’s rankings.

A rise this vertiginous would be considered an anomaly were it not for the podcasts that sit directly above and below it in the charts. The U.K.’s No. 3 podcast is called The Rest Is Politics, while at No. 1 is The Rest Is Football. Additionally, the country’s sixth most popular podcast is The Rest Is History. Seemingly out of nowhere, this independently produced lineup has come to dominate all else around it. It is the Beatles of podcasting.

To date, no English player has scored more World Cup goals than striker Lineker.

But perhaps this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The concept for The Rest Is History was devised by Goalhanger, a podcast-production company co-founded by Gary Lineker, a man with the miraculous ability to find towering success in any field he enters. As a professional soccer player, Lineker became England’s second-highest goal scorer, a spot he held for almost a quarter of a century. Upon retirement, he turned to broadcasting and found equal success there, hosting the BBC’s weekly soccer show Match of the Day, along with World Cups and Olympic Games, and now he’s the highest-paid commentator in the entire corporation.

Seemingly out of nowhere, this independently produced lineup has come to dominate all else around it.

The magic Lineker touch even extends to junk food; in 1994, he became the face of Walkers Crisps, a snack brand from his hometown of Leicester. Within a few years of his endorsement, Walkers had become the U.K.’s leading potato-chip manufacturer.

Throughout his endorsement of Walkers Crisps, Lineker has appeared in more than 150 advertisements for the brand.

Essentially, whatever Lineker touches has a habit of turning straight to gold. And so, with the benefit of hindsight, he was always destined to become the king of podcasting. Not that he was an immediate success. Goalhanger’s first podcast, Behind Closed Doors, was a chummy little show where Lineker swapped stories of his glory days with D.J. and comedy writer Danny Baker. The series had its charms, but the loosely defined premise and directionless chatter failed to win over listeners in any meaningful quantities. It ended in 2020.

But that year, Lineker and his Goalhanger co-founders, Jack Davenport and Tony Pastor (a former BBC sports journalist and ITV’s onetime controller of sports), struck upon a winning formula. They hired historians Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook to create The Rest Is History, a podcast that explores well-known moments and figures from the past, from Alfred the Great to Ronald Reagan. The key to the show’s success is undoubtedly the chemistry between Holland and Sandbrook; their chat is scholarly but free of the rote dreariness that ruined history at school. It’s exciting, light, and well informed, and listeners came in droves to hear it.

Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook, hosts of The Rest Is History, Goalhanger’s chart-topping podcast with more than 52 million downloads.

The Rest Is History also established a winning formula for Goalhanger. Two hosts, experts in their fields, take apart a subject for an hour, and revenues are split three ways, between them and Goalhanger. By the time The Rest Is Politics debuted, in 2022, the model had been finessed to a high sheen. Its hosts, Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart—Tony Blair’s former director of communications and an ex-Conservative M.P., respectively—were perfectly picked.

Campbell is a moderate Labour supporter (he was responsible for a dossier that led the U.K. into the Iraq War), while Stewart is a noisy Conservative (although he was thrown out of the party in 2019, after voting against Boris Johnson). This creates a frisson of spikiness, despite both being basically centrists who agree on almost everything. And it doesn’t hurt that The Rest Is Politics is being made at a time when the British government lurches from one historically significant disaster to another.

The magic Lineker touch even extends to junk food.

The Rest Is Politics is another runaway success, becoming a touring, live show that has not only played the Royal Albert Hall but sold out all 5,000 tickets in a day. Podcasters are traditionally quite cagey about their earnings, but Stewart recently let slip that hosting provided him with an income comparable to that of a second-tier British soccer player. It’s worth pointing out that the highest-paid athlete in this realm earns about $80,000 a week.

Maybe this is what lured Lineker back to the mike. Last month, Goalhanger launched The Rest Is Football, where Lineker—along with co-hosts (and former players) Alan Shearer and Micah Richards—offers his take on the latest sports news, while reminiscing about his past. And its success is already undeniable. There is no podcast, on any subject, more popular in the U.K. than The Rest Is Football, and that’s largely thanks to Lineker.

He has always been warm and incisive, but this medium allows Lineker to excel. Conversations can spread out to their natural lengths, and his personality is on display. He tells jokes. He does impressions. Lineker has enjoyed a career without precedent, but to hear The Rest Is Football is to reach the conclusion that this third act might be his best.

Alan Shearer, Lineker, and Micah Richards’s opinionated sports podcast.

And the timing couldn’t be better. Lineker, Shearer, and Richards all appear on Match of the Day, which has been in the news, and not in a good way. Lineker’s salary from the publicly funded BBC, paired with his contentious tweets, means that his opponents are constantly calling for his head. This reached its peak in March, when Lineker tweeted criticism of the British government’s immigration policy. A storm erupted, and he was briefly suspended from Match of the Day.

In the end, Lineker won. The show’s remaining on-air talent boycotted Match of the Day in support. But Lineker is 62 years old, and there must be only so much that a man can take. Perhaps, then, The Rest Is Football is something of a release for him.

Then again, maybe this is just the start. Lineker has already moved from world-class athlete to world-class broadcaster, and now he has also managed to become Britain’s leading podcast mogul—and all without breaking much of a sweat. Surely he must be thinking of other industries he can conquer. In fact, he almost certainly is. After all, it’s worth bearing in mind the full title of his production company: Goalhanger Films. Lineker, we’ll see you in Hollywood.

Stuart Heritage is a Kent, U.K.–based Writer at Large at AIR MAIL and the author of Bedtime Stories for Worried Liberals