Professional footballers have it pretty easy. Those at the highest level are usually earning in the tens of thousands by the time they reach the end of their teens. For those of the highest quality, weekly wages can climb as high as £300,000 a week, if not more. That's more money in a week than the average UK worker makes in 10 years. Over the course of a 15-year career playing at the highest level, footballers can pocket hundreds of millions, which sets them and their family up for a comfortable, if not luxurious, future. However, many aren’t willing to settle for the vast fortune that comes with playing the beautiful game. There is a growing trend in football, in which many star players opting to diversify their revenue streams and start earning money outside of football. Of course, having garnered huge followings through the game, convincing customers to buy merch or download a branded app is a significantly easier task for them than most. Some swap dressing rooms and training grounds for business meetings and boardrooms after retiring from the game, while others choose to run businesses on the side while they play. There is a common misconception in the football world that players would be nobodies if they weren't good at the sport, stuck performing mundane jobs that require little to no mental ability. However, these seven football-stars-cum-business-whizzes prove that it isn't true:
Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand is a man of many talents. He is one of the best center-backs of his generation, having spent over a decade at the heart of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils side and has maintained his presence in the sport since retiring in 2015. He has since taken up a punditry role with BT Sport, covering their Premier League, Champions League, and Europa League action. However, Ferdinand hasn’t limited himself to football. He has also tried a number of activities outside of the sport. His first venture came in 2005 when he set up the White Chalk Music label with an old school friend. The record label’s two artists, Melody Johnston and Nia Jai ultimately failed to break into the scene, but it did offer Ferdinand the chance to try his hand at rapping. He has also tried his hand at Hollywood, having produced the 2008 gangster film Dead Man Running, starring Danny Dyer and 50 Cent. Likewise, he has also been a television regular, having hosted his own show ahead of the 2006 World Cup. The star defender presented Rio’s World Cup Wind-Ups, in which he ‘Merk’d’ a number of his England teammates by pranking them in the hidden-camera style show. While the one-off program never made it to episode two, Ferdinand was somewhat more successful in the fashion world. His biggest venture has undoubtedly been his #5 fashion label. Now known as FIVE Supply, the label has blended Ferdinand’s love for ‘sportswear, fitness and contemporary football culture’ to create a brand that football fans love to wear.
Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo is widely regarded as the world’s most popular athlete, with more Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook followers than any of his footballing peers. His popularity off the pitch correlates with his success on it. Alongside Barcelona star Lionel Messi, he is regarded as the best footballer in the world and one of the greatest of all time. It is hard to separate the two on talent, but Ronaldo leads the way on earnings. The Real Madrid legend is the world’s highest-paid athlete, beating the likes of NBA’s LeBron James and tennis star Roger Federer by millions. He isn't quite football’s highest-paid star - he is topped by Shanghai Shenhua’s Carlos Teves (£615,000-a-week) and Shanghai SIPG’s Oscar (400,000-a-week), coming third on £365,000-a-week. However, his annual earnings are boosted significantly by sponsorship deals and personal businesses. Much of his money is made via his CR7 brand. The Portuguese talent uses his huge social following to sell a range of products. He currently has his own line of underwear, which retail at a cost of £10-25, as well as footwear, clothing, and perfume lines. According to the talented footballer, design and fashion are his true passions. Chances are, when his time on the pitch comes to an inevitable end, albeit still a while away, given his quality, he will dedicate the rest of his days to cracking the fashion industry.
The Class of ‘92 is one of the most iconic groups of players in the history of the beautiful game. Making up the core group of Fergie’s Fledglings, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, and Nicky Butt single-handedly won Manchester United trophies over the years. Between them, the six breakthrough stars won a huge collection of trophies over their two-decade stay in the Premier League. Playing throughout one of Manchester United’s most successful spells, you can imagine just how difficult it would have been to maintain a spot in managerial legend Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, which has contained some of the world’s best players over the years. However, while David Beckham and Phil Neville eventually moved on, the likes of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes were untouchable. However, while the group will always be remembered for their impact on the field, they have all moved to succeed in the business world following their retirements. Phil Neville, Gary Neville, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, and Ryan Giggs have all put money into the purchase of National League North side Salford City FC. However, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs have taken another step into the business world, with their hospitality company GG Hospitality. The duo has since set about developing football-themed hotels and cafes around the United Kingdom. They opened Café Football in Stratford, London in 2013, before unveiling Hotel Football just a stone’s throw from Old Trafford a year later. With a capacity of 1,500, the hotel contains a supporters’ club and a five-a-side football pitch on the roof.
Unless you're an Arsenal fan, you probably wouldn't include French midfielder Mathieu Flamini on your list of star players. However, having made more than 150 appearances for the North London club, helping them to clinch two FA Cups and a place in the 2006 Champions League final, he is certainly held in high regard at the Emirates. Flamini has had a football career of the highest quality. However, he has since found a new passion - making the Earth a greener place. The steely midfielder co-founded GFBiochemicals, short for Granata Flamini Biochemicals after its two founders, in 2008. Despite refusing to tell his teammates or manager at the time, Flamini’s involvement has since come to light. The company is now the world-leading producer of levulinic acid, an acid formula that provides a sustainable alternative to oil-based products. The company has since completed takeovers of a number of other companies, which allowed them to bring the production process in-house. Levulinic acid has since been named as one of 12 molecules that could help to alleviate the pollution crisis and make the world a greener place again. Flamini’s unexpected feat into the world of geo-energy hasn't gone unnoticed - the former footballer was deservedly named in NME’s People of the Year awards in 2015.
Most football stars choose to go into other areas of the sport following their retirement. If they don’t become a coach or manager, they set up sports academies to train hopeful young players, or take up a punditry role with a sports broadcaster. However, Robbie Fowler opted for a completely new career path. The prolific goalscorer earned a considerable fortune throughout his time in the game. His best years were spent leading the line at Liverpool, where he scored 120 goals in 236 league games. However, he also scored goals for Leeds United and Manchester City. Had he played his best years a decade later, Fowler would have likely been a top earner in the top flight. However, Fowler didn’t make as much as most modern footballers do from playing the sport. That isn’t to say that Fowler isn’t one of the richest footballers around - he is. However, most of his wealth didn’t come from his sports career. From the age of 18, Fowler has been extremely smart in investing his earnings in properties around Liverpool, putting together an impressive list of homes and buildings by the time he retired in 2012. Fowler earns enough to live comfortably through renting out his property empire. However, he has also set up ‘Property Academy’, a company which runs workshops and courses which, at a cost of £1000 ahead, helps to turn investment hopefuls into buy-to-let experts.
Before Cristiano Ronaldo, there was David Beckham. He wasn’t quite the best player in the world - that title was held by Ronaldinho at the time, while Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard, and Steven Gerrard were all, albeit arguably, better players in England’s midfield - but he certainly led the way in marketability. Golden Balls, as he is affectionately known by England fans, is football’s biggest brand. When he eventually called time on his playing career in 2013, having played for the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid, and LA Galaxy, and Paris Saint-Germain, he had served as the face of supermarkets, fizzy drinks, sports, and fashion brands. He was tied to everything from Adidas to Brylcreem and his numerous haircuts would send youngsters around the country rushing to their nearest barbershop with a picture of the football star in hand. Championed by his ex-pop star wife Victoria Beckham, previously of the Spice Girls, Beckham earned a vast fortune throughout his time in football. However, he hasn’t settled down to a quiet life since. He has opened football academies in London and Los Angeles and is in the process of starting his own Major League Soccer club in Miami. The Beckham brand now spans far beyond the former footballer himself. His children, Brooklyn, Romeo, Cruz, and Harper have all been used to boost the family business. Brooklyn has played football at youth level and is now trying his hand at photography, while Cruz is on track to succeed his mother in the music industry, having previously released music.