Lineker began his football career at Leicester City in 1978, and finished as the First Division's joint top goalscorer in 1984–85. He then moved to League Champions Everton where he developed as a clinical finisher, scoring 30 goals in 41 games. His first team honours came at Barcelona, where he won the Copa del Rey in 1988 and the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1989. He returned to England in 1989, joining Tottenham Hotspur, and over three seasons he scored 67 goals in 105 games and won the FA Cup. Lineker's final club was Nagoya Grampus Eight and he retired in 1994 after two seasons at the Japanese side.
Lineker made his England debut in 1984, earning 80 caps and scoring forty-eight goals over an eight-year international career, and is England's third highest scorer behind Bobby Charlton, and Wayne Rooney. His international goals-to-games ratio remains one of the best for the country and he is regarded as one of the all-time best English strikers. He was top scorer in the 1986 World Cup and received the Golden Boot, the only time an Englishman had done so until Harry Kane in the 2018 World Cup. He is also the only player to have been the top scorer in England with three clubs (Leicester City, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur).
Even though he enjoyed a long career, Lineker never received a yellow or red card. As a result, he was honoured in 1990 with the FIFA Fair Play Award. In a senior career which spanned 16 years and 567 competitive games, Lineker scored a total of 282 goals at club level, and 48 goals in internationals, a total of 330 goals. After his retirement from football he was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame. A keen supporter of Leicester City, he led a consortium that invested in his old club, saving it from bankruptcy, and was appointed honorary vice-president.
Lineker was born in Leicester, the son of Margaret P. (Abbs) and Barry Lineker. His middle name came from Winston Churchill, with whom he shares his birthday. He has one younger brother, Wayne who is two years his junior. Lineker grew up with his family in the city, playing football with his brother Wayne. Lineker's father was a greengrocer, as was his grandfather William and great-grandfather, George, in Leicester. His father ran Lineker's fruit and veg stall in Leicester Market and as a child and a young player he regularly helped out on the stall.
Lineker first attended Caldecote Road School (Caldecote Juniors), Braunstone in Leicester (east of the Meridian Centre) although he lived outside the borough. He went to the City of Leicester Boys' Grammar School (now City of Leicester College) on Downing Drive in Evington, inside the borough of Leicester due to his preference for football rather than rugby, which was the main sport of most schools near his home. As a result, he lived with his grandmother, who lived in the city, while attending school. Lineker was equally talented at both football and cricket. From the ages of 11 to 16 he captained the Leicestershire Schools cricket team, and had felt that he had a higher chance of succeeding at it rather than football. He later stated on They Think It's All Over that as a teenager he idolised former England captain David Gower, who was playing for Leicestershire at the time. During his youth he played for Aylestone Park Youth, later becoming the club's president.
Lineker left school with four O Levels. One of his teachers wrote on his report card that he "concentrates too much on football" and that he would "never make a living at that". He then joined the youth academy at Leicester City in 1976.