THE arrival in Glasgow of a new clutch of well-paid footballers has created a frisson of excitement among the city's estate agents, writes Stewart McIntosh.

The kind of money paid nowadays to top Rangers or Celtic stars can boost house sales at the upper end of the market. High-earning, high-living, footballers like to buy big. But they don't buy nearly as big, or as tastefully, as Glasgow's affluent people of 100 years ago. Back then it was the merchant princes who commissioned the best homes - and nothing similar is built by developers nowadays.

Number 5 Cleveden Road in the city's West End is a dramatic example of the best that money could buy in bricks and mortar - to say nothing of marble, brass, plasterwork, mahogany, glass, and mosaics. The house is now being converted into half a dozen apart-ments, all of which retain original features.

The house was designed by architect John Gordon, who was also responsible for other impressive houses in the vicinity, as well as more modest tenements and terraces. Completed in 1887, it was built for Thomas Russell, a JP and Deputy Lieutenant of Bute - where he owned an estate at Ascog. Much of his wealth came from his partnership in Saracen Foundry in Possilpark.

Originally the house had 28 rooms, later reduced to a more manageable 20. It has a striking hallway with several groups of black marble columns, a vaulted ceiling, and an impressive imperial staircase. The former billiard room on the top floor has a dramatic vaulted ceiling, carved in great detail from mahogany. As the living room of one of the conversions, it has sweeping views across the West End villas and terraces. Glass details reflect the four seasons.

Many rooms have detailed plasterwork on walls and ceilings - much of which had been hidden behind partitioning and tiles when the house was owned by the Salvation Army.

With the top-floor conversion complete, developer Allan McGregor and his team are working their way down through the building (a handy tip when doing home improvements: start at the top and then you won't tramp dirt through completed rooms).

''We have been extremely lucky, the building was in very good condition when we got it,'' says McGregor. ''We have spent #25,000 in restoring the plasterwork alone. When you look at the quality of the craftsmanship in the marble pillars, marble stairs, plasterwork and doors , you begin to realise the incredible wealth of the people who commissioned such homes.''

McGregor has already carried out several successful conversions in the West End.

Apartments at 5 Cleveden Road will range in price from #85,000 for a one bedroom flat to #180,000 for a six apartment flat; but would-be buyers had better move fast, as McGregor claims a list of 50 people who have already notified interest.

The apartments are being marketed by Clyde Property.