The surprising life changes footballers make post retirement

The life of a footballer can follow very similar trajectory. Unless you are one of the world’s biggest stars, many careers across the world retell the same story. Working up through the youth teams, making a name in the first team, maybe a few loans and transfers and the inevitable retirement. However, from this point onward it can all become very different very fast.

Whether it is Gary Lineker hosting Match of the Day, Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville on Sky Sports, Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard in the dugout – most footballers invariably continue with their love for the game after retirement. Many go on to become pundits, coaches and managers, as they cannot seem to let go of football. However, there is a small percentage of those footballers who just want to experience something new outside the game and make surprising career changes post retirement. This small percent buck the trend and go on to live a very different and interesting life.

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Many of the men retiring today are multi-millionaires and they are safe in the knowledge that they will never have to work another day in their life. Sometimes football is a hobby that many are happy to leave behind in a pursuit of a totally different way of life. Others are not as fortunate to earn the millions that many of their peers earn and they succumb to a ‘normal’ profession.

When you search through history, many had no other option but to go straight into work after their footballing retirement. Entertainment, other sports, politics or a normal life have attracted many footballers, however, many have ended up living a very sad life after football and numerous have had a life more exciting than on the pitch. The life of a retired footballer, outside of football, is often a very interesting one.

All footballers face the prospect of being stuck in the house with nothing to do once their football career ends. Hopefully, this list can inspire some people into a radical career change or warn off some mistakes that too much free time can cause.

Bixente Lizarazu – Jiu Jitsu Champion

Former French World-Cup-winning left-back, Bixente Lizarazu, had a success laden career with Bayern Munich where he retired in 2006. Three years later, he pursued a new vocation in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He had a certain degree of success as he won the European Championship at Blue Belt in 2009 in Lisbon. His progression in the self-defence martial art and combat sport continued as he was promoted to Black Belt in 2016. He has pursued a TV punditry career in France which has seen his Jiu Jitsu take a back seat for now. However, Lizarazu has stated “I will stick with BJJ, it’s a beautiful experience. It’s one against one. You haven’t got your friends behind your back to support you like in football. It’s close to a fight for survival”.

Wendell Lira – Gaming

Very few in the world can boast beating the greatest of all time at their own game, and Wendell Lira is one of those few men. In 2015, Lira received 46.7% of the votes, as compared with Messi’s 33.3%, to win the FIFA Puskas Award. An outstanding bicycle kick for his then club Goianésia saw Lira beat Messi’s Copa del Rey final goal against Athletic Bilbao. But his football career did not pan out as well as he had hoped for after the win.

Due to persistent injuries, Lira had to retire from the game at the age of 28. Living in a country like Brazil was difficult, where a majority of the players earn very small sums for their profession and the anxiety drove Lira to attempt suicide. In an interview, he said, “I didn’t have money to pay for milk for my daughter. I was suffering a huge pressure because I was unemployed, without perspective. I couldn’t see me in the mirror.” But Lira was a brilliant gamer and found a way out of his misery by becoming a professional gamer.

In 2015, he almost qualified for the FIFA Interactive World Cup (FIWC) edition. After the Puskas win, he was challenged by the then FIWC world champion. Not only did Lira beat him 6-1, he also received an invitation from EA Sports for the following year’s FIWC, and three years later he joined Sporting CP eSports. Apart from gaming, Lira has a successful Youtube channel with close to 600K subscribers as of now.

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Rio Ferdinand – Boxing

In September 2017, former Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand announced, “I’ve won titles and now I’m aiming for a belt”. His dream was now for a new challenge in a new sport which gathered a lot of media attention. Boxing promoter Barry Hearn voiced his concerns stating that “If Tony Bellew, David Haye or Anthony Joshua hit Rio Ferdinand it would probably be prosecutable by the police for using a deadly weapon. He could get himself badly hurt”. The 39-year old ultimately had his boxing licence application refused in May 2018 and his short-lived boxing career was over before it began. This opened him up to ridicule as many ‘congratulated’ him on an unbeaten boxing career on Twitter. He is now a firm fixture on BT’s Punditry panel.

Tim Wiese – WWE

Tim Wiese may be one of the most recent well-known examples of the transition from football into a new career. At 33 years of age, he retired from football, relatively prematurely for a goalkeeper, to chase his dream as a professional wrestler. The German international made his WWE debut in late 2016, months after his football retirement, as he joined forces with Cesaro and Sheamus to defeat the team of The Shining Stars and Bo Dallas. He saw wrestling as “an alternative to becoming fat and sitting on the couch”, but it was a short-lived career. His one-off WWE appearance was in Munich and appears to have been a publicity stunt as Wiese has not wrestled since. In fact, in a span of a few months in 2016-17, he retired from football, began his wrestling career and then returned to football again, a rollercoaster year.

Vinnie Jones – Acting and Singing

Despite Vinnie Jones also appearing in WWF, as it was known in 1998, his post-football career has been spent mostly on the big screen. The stereotypical football ‘hard man’, Jones was sent off 12 times in a fiery career best depicted in the unbelievable film Vinnie Jones – Soccer’s Hard Men. It was Guy Ritchie that handed Jones his first acting role in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels in 1998 and his acting career is still going today.

His main role came as Danny Meehan in Mean Machine in 2001 but he has also featured in films such as Snatch, Gone in 60 Seconds, X-Men: The Last Stand, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted and many others. TV, music videos, Celebrity Big Brother and his 2002 album Respect have illustrated that Jones has enjoyed a varied career in the entertainment industry.

Frank Leboeuf – Acting

Along with Lizarazu, Leboeuf was part of the 1998 France World-Cup-winning squad. His first acting break came whilst he was playing for Chelsea as he played a French Aide in the German-French-Austrian-British 2001 film Taking Sides. After his retirement in 2005, Leboeuf moved to LA where he played alongside Vinnie Jones at Hollywood United. However, the move was primarily for Leboeuf to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a professional actor.

Perhaps his biggest role to date came in the Stephen Hawkins biopic The Theory of Everything where he played a Swiss Doctor. He has appeared in several French and British TV series and films as well as being an executive producer. One of his most notable recent public appearances was on the French version of The Masked Singer in 2019 in France.

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Petr Čech – Ice Hockey Goaltender and Technical & Performance Advisor

Fans of Chelsea Football club need no introduction of their legend. After recovering from a skull fracture sustained in a game against Reading, Petr Čech went on to become a Chelsea legend with 4 Premier League trophies, a Champions League medal, a Europa League medal and 4 FA Cups. He won the Premier League golden glove 4 times, was in the PFA Team of the Year twice, was named Czech Footballer of the Year 9 times, 4 times European goalkeeper of the year and there are 26 other personal awards to his name.

After retiring from football, Petr Čech decided to return from Arsenal to Chelsea and took up a technical and performance advisory role at Stamford Bridge. Four months later, he signed as a goaltender for Guildford Phoenix, an ice hockey team in National Ice Hockey League Division 2 (NIHL2). Čech was named the man of the match on his ice hockey debut game after stopping 2 penalties in a shootout among other crucial saves. Currently, he juggles both his Chelsea role and his ice hock role while releasing drum covers on his personal YouTube channel.

Thomas Gravesen – Poker Star

From Goodison Park to the Santiago Bernabéu, Danish midfielder Thomas Gravesen had an interesting football career that got even more unusual after he retired in 2009. Some sensible and successful investments combined with a passion and proclivity for poker meant that he and his model girlfriend relocated to Las Vegas. The ability to be anonymous partnered with business and pleasure benefits in Nevada meant that it was the perfect location for Gravesen’s retirement, who ended up being neighbours to Nicolas Cage and Andre Agassi.

He enjoys his anonymity so much that he has been coined ‘the unicorn’ in Denmark and when asked about how he amassed his reported £100 million fortune, he replied “Only £100 million? Where’s the rest!” adding more fuel to his mysterious fire. Last year, he returned to Denmark and is now a pundit but continuing his business escapades.

Dani Osvaldo – Musician

The Argentina born striker, Dani Osvaldo, has always been quite an enigmatic character on and off the pitch. He represented Italy at international level and won the league in Italy and Argentina during his club career. Perhaps best known in England for his spell at Southampton, Osvaldo left Boca Juniors in 2016 to concentrate on his music career.

His band Barrio Viejo, in which Osvaldo was the lead singer, achieved relative success releasing two albums. Whilst being a member of the Argentine rock outfit, Osvaldo was approached by Sevilla to play around his music career. Osvaldo rejected the approach so he could perform at Cosquin Rock an annual Argentine music festival. However, in January 2020 Osvaldo made his return to football as he scored on his debut for his former youth side Banfield against River Plate in Argentina.

Dion Dublin – Homes Under the Hammer and The Dube

Dion Dublin is a Leicester-born former striker for clubs such as Aston Villa, Cambridge United, Manchester United, Celtic and Norwich. He also represented England four times in his twenty-year career. He entered the punditry side of the game following his retirement, something which he is still involved in. However, it was his passion for percussion that gathered some media attention as he invented the ‘unique percussion instrument’ The Dube. Costing up to £320.00, The Acoustic Dube and Pro Dube are still available for purchase today.

Dublin continued to explore drastic career changes as he was appointed as the co-host of BBC’s Homes Under the Hammer in 2015 due to his successful personal property development prowess and TV experience since his retirement. Dublin is clearly a man of many talents.

Djibril Cissé – A.K.A. Mr Lenoir

Cissé, perhaps most notably, was part of the Liverpool side that won the Champions League in Istanbul in 2005. The French forward played in six different countries. He became well known for his unique and experimental hairstyles and for overcoming two horrific leg breaks in his career. His passion for standing out from the crowd was first displayed by the launch of his clothing brand Klubb 9 in 2009. Following his retirement, apart from a feature in the French film Taxi 4, he concentrated on his alter ego Mr Lenoir. A clothing range and fragrance line partnered his DJ career under the stage name of Mr Lenoir. In 2017 he retired from football to concentrate on his music, he did make a return in the Swiss third division later that year but is still DJing today.

Kakha Kaladze – Mayor of Tbilisi

The Georgian defender, Kakha Kaladze, was part of an AC Milan side that won the Serie A in 2004 and the Champions League in 2003 and 2007. He was also a part of the team that was defeated by Mr Lenoir’s Liverpool in 2005. The five-time Georgian Footballer of the Year won 23 major honours in Georgia, Ukraine and Italy in his career and is also a member of the AC Milan Hall of Fame.

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His first involvement with politics came in 2001 when his brother was filmed being kidnapped with a ransom of $600,000 demanded for his release. His brother’s body wasn’t discovered until February 2006 and Kaladze contemplated taking up Ukrainian citizenship in protest of the Georgian government’s treatment of this incident.

Kaladze’s political career came into play after his investment company’s success saw him enter the energy business alongside the future Georgian Prime Minister. This saw Kaladze become appointed as Minister of Energy and Natural Resources amid much controversy for his obvious conflict of interests. Kaladze’s business partner became Georgian Prime Minister and appointed Kaladze as his Deputy PM. In 2017, he resigned to run for Mayor of Tbilisi which he won, a role in which he remains today.

George Weah – President of Liberia

Weah is a real 90s football icon, widely regarded as one of the greatest players to never play in the World Cup. The Liberian born cult hero is a legend in his home country. Spells for A.C. Milan and PSG made him a household name and he won the 1995 Ballon d’Or. He retired from football in 2003 and following the Second Liberian Civil War, Weah ran for President in 2005. He was ultimately unsuccessful as his lack of experience and formal education derailed his campaign. Weah then moved to America to study for a degree in Business Administration. He returned to Liberia in 2009 and remained involved in politics before again running for President in 2017, this time Weah was successful and remains in office today.

William ‘Fatty’ Foulke – Fairground Nightmare

Foulke not only played football, but also played professional cricket. He played cricket for Derbyshire County and as a goalkeeper for Sheffield United. The 6 ft. 4 and 24 stone goalkeeper William ‘Fatty’ Foulke was a beast of a man and is said to be the original inspiration for the chant “Who ate all the pies?”. Other memorable events from his career included swinging on a crossbar until it snapped, picking up opposing strikers and throwing them into his goal and chasing a referee whilst naked after a game. It must also be noted that he did win one Division One title and two FA Cup’s, despite the many comical stories and images from his life. He died from cirrhosis after working in a ‘beat the goalie’ attraction in Blackpool, an entertaining character that succumbed to ridicule as he struggled for money and health after football.

Dixie Dean – Testimonial and Littlewoods

Dixie Dean broke the English goal scoring record in 1928 as he won the league with his Everton side. His statue stands proudly outside of Goodison Park and the club featured a motif of Dean on the back of their 2017/18 kits. However, despite being widely regarded as the greatest ever Everton player who remains their top goal scorer with 383 goals in 433 games, he was not awarded a testimonial after his 13-year Everton career. It was locally reported that Dean had fallen on tough financial times and Evertonians rallied to support their former hero. The then Chairman John Moores offered Dean a job at his department store Littlewoods and a testimonial 26 years after his last game for the club, to raise funds for Dean. A sum of £7,000 was raised and ensured Dean was comfortable for the rest of his life.

Ricky Otto – Prison, Pitch and Pulpit

Although not one of the best-known players on the list, the former Leyton Orient, Southend and Birmingham star had already endured an interesting life before making his professional debut aged 22. He had already been imprisoned on five separate occasions and frustrated inmates due to his clear football and academic prowess. He finally listened and turned his life around to enjoy a relatively successful football career despite entering the professional game so late. He continued his reformed lifestyle after retirement and is now the Pastor of ARC Birmingham. He has described his life as a journey from ‘Prison, Pitch, to the Pulpit’; an enigmatic and interesting man both on and off the field.

Faustino Asprilla – Machine Guns and Condoms

Another enigmatic player on this list is Faustino Asprilla. The Colombian is best known in England for his time with Newcastle in the late 1990s. The flair which he played with made him a cult hero in the North-East and for every team he played for. He officially retired in Medellín in 2009 (hometown of Andrés Escobar) despite not playing competitive football since 2004. In 2008, Asprilla was arrested for firing his machine gun at security officials who had refused to let members of his family pass a security point in Colombia, he was put under house arrest.

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During this time, he appeared on Colombian reality TV. In 2014 Asprilla announced he was launching a line of guava-flavoured condoms. He stated “When I was growing up, we had a guava tree in our garden and that’s a flavour and aroma that’s very good for romancing”. This came a year after he turned down the fruitful opportunity of “20 million pesos for a week as a porn actor” in Italy. Asprilla also claimed last year that he was offered the chance to authorise the assassination of ex-Paraguay goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert following an on-field clash in 1997. Asprilla refused to authorise the hit and was happy to return to Newcastle. A wide-ranging retirement that illustrates the magic and madness of the man.

George Best, Garrincha, Paul Gascoigne and many others – Addiction

Sadly, many footballers turn to alcohol, drugs and gambling after football. Addiction does not discriminate and can affect anyone no matter how rich or poor. Many footballers are hit by addiction as they have the finances to facilitate their habits. Some notable sufferers include Diego Maradona, Paul Merson and Tony Adams who have all had their major problems during and after their career.

Paul Gascoigne is a well-known case of someone who has really struggled with addiction and his physical decline has been very upsetting to witness. He seemingly continues to relapse despite the best efforts of himself and many former players and fans.

Two-time World Cup winner Garrincha was part of some of the greatest Brazilian teams in their illustrious history. However, his heavy drinking ruined the legacy that he had created. He was involved in countless drink driving crashes including an accident that killed his mother-in-law. He also had numerous marriages and affairs and is said to have fathered at least 14 children. In 1982, he was hospitalised 8 times with drinking related health problems and his final years were shrouded in financial, physical and mental issues and countless relapses. In 1983, he passed away with cirrhosis of the liver but received a mass funeral in honour of his on-field successes.

George Best is perhaps the best depiction of addiction in football. He came onto the scene as an exciting footballer who was pivotal in Manchester United’s first European Cup victory. His ability to take the ball past players and score goals made him a fan favourite. His rock and roll lifestyle made him a media star too. He came out with memorable quotes like “In 1969 I gave up women and alcohol—it was the worst 20 minutes of my life”.

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However, his public decline made him become a clear depiction of excess and addiction, and his career fizzled out in his late 20s. He visibly gained weight and moved around from club to club as he was involved in 18 transfers in 10 years. Family issues saw him divorce his first wife and be surrounded in rumours of criminal assault and theft. In 2002, he underwent a liver transplant, paid for by the NHS which caused public uproar. This was exacerbated as he was spotted out drinking again the following year. He couldn’t control his addiction and passed away in 2005.

Addiction is a serious mental illness that affects many people and the struggles of well-known footballers illustrates how it can affect anyone at any time and is a dangerous life-threatening disease.

Most footballers follow a similar career line for 15-20 years and then it explodes into a wild and varied curve in which anything can happen. The Kaladzes and Weahs of the world enter a professional political career whereas the Cissés and Joneses of football world enjoy the lure of entertainment and further media attention. Some people waste the platform that has been provided to them, some fail at new careers, some make lots of money and some lose it all. Nothing is certain and many different stories can be told, but some of the weirdest and the most wonderful retirement journeys of the footballers are certainly interesting.

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