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Eleven footballers now making it big in business after smart investments

Memories for a lifetime will be made for some of the best footballers in the world when Liverpool and Real Madrid line up in the Champions League final this weekend – but they’d be smart to look to the future and invest in businesses too, like these current and ex-pros

If they’re lucky, professional footballers might enjoy careers of about 15 years in the sport.

But what happens once they’ve retired and no longer spend their days on the training ground, realising not everyone can become a coach or media pundit?

Given the huge sums of money involved in football nowadays, investing money into business is a wise choice for players who want to set themselves up for life – while it also gives them something to focus on after they hang up their boots.

Here’s 11 footballers – enough for a full team – of varying stature who went on to make waves in the world of business.

 

Mathieu Flamini

Mathieu Flamini, GF Biochemicals
Mathieu Flamini, right, set up bioscience firm GF Biochemicals with business partner Pasquale Granata, left (Credit: Twitter/Mathieu Flamini)

The former Arsenal and AC Milan midfielder is on a quest to save the planet after founding bioscience firm GF Biochemicals with business partner Pasquale Granata in 2008 – while he’s making some serious money, too.

Still playing at Spanish side Getafe, the 34-year-old was recognised last week as one of the 100 most promising business leaders on the planet in the World Economic Forum’s community of Young Global Leaders.

That’s because GF Biochemicals has made great strides in the past 10 years, becoming the first company to mass-produce levulinic acid, a sustainable oil substitute that can be used in plastics, solvents, fuels and the pharmaceutical industry.

In 2014, levulinic acid was named as one of the 12 biochemicals most likely to produce value in the future by the US Department of Energy.

The company, which employs 400 people, is said to have enormous potential, with various estimates suggesting it could one day be valued at 20 billion euros (£17.6 billion).

 

Clarence Seedorf

Clarence Seedorf
Clarence Seedorf, right, playing for AC MIland against Mesut Ozil of Real Madrid

He had fans salivating when he was tormenting defenders as one of the world’s most gifted playmakers during the 1990s and 2000s.

Now the former Dutch international is doing the same for diners at his Japanese restaurant group Finger’s.

Seedorf, who retired in 2014 after a decorated career that included stints at clubs including AC Milan and Real Madrid, set up the company in 2004.

As well as two restaurants in Milan, it has branches in Porto Cervo, the French Alps and Rome, with the latter opening earlier this month.

 

David Beckham

David Beckham

Brand Beckham has been one of the most successful to ever come out of football.

Even though he hung up his boots five years ago, old Golden Balls remains one of the most recognisable sportsmen on the planet, with endorsements in everything from Adidas and Armani to Samsung and H&M managed via his image rights company Footwork Productions.

But it’s not just other companies the former Manchester United and Real Madrid ace is promoting, as he has become something of an entrepreneur himself along with wife Victoria Beckham.

Through the 43-year-old’s company DB Ventures Limited, he banked £29m over the past two years in dividends – giving him a total net worth of £332m, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

The business is involved in “licensing and other forms of commercialisation of the ‘David Beckham’ brand”, presumably including his David Beckham fragrance brand and his link-up with clothing brand Kent & Curwen for a range in his name.

 

Robbie Fowler

Robbie Fowler Property Academy
Robbie Fowler Property Academy website

“We all live in a Robbie Fowler house” – or so the oft-heard terrace chant went during Fowler’s successful on-pitch career.

He is a legend at hometown club Liverpool after winning five trophies and scoring 183 goals, but it was while playing for Manchester City in the mid-2000s when his burgeoning property empire became well-known.

Fowler, now 43, is believed to be one of the wealthiest footballers of all time after building a large portfolio, including apartments, small family homes and larger buildings.

In 2005, he featured on The Sunday Times Rich List of the 1,000 wealthiest people in Britain with an estimated fortune of £28m – while his net worth is now estimated to be about £31m.

He now provides tips to others through the Robbie Fowler Property Academy, which holds workshops across the UK.

It’s not just property he invests in, with other business interests in racehorses and sports promotions.

Fowler says the smartest move he ever made was getting a financial adviser as an 18-year-old following a recommendation by his first manager Graeme Souness.

 

 

Marlon Harewood

Marlon Harewood
Marlon Harewood set up AC13 Premier

After a somewhat journeyman of a footballer, Harewood returned to where it all began to set up his business.

Nottingham Forest had been the first of 13 clubs for the powerful striker, who went on to play in the Premier League for the likes of West Ham United and Aston Villa.

While not officially retired but without a professional club in three years, the 38-year-old now heads up AC13 Premier alongside business partner Andy Cole – not the footballer – in Nottingham.

The company gives him a ticket to dealing with top stars like Harry Kane, Wayne Rooney, Kyle Walker, Andy Carroll and Jack Butland on a regular basis, with the footballers now clients who want their sports cars customised and equipped with the latest modifications.


They include interior fit-outs, body styling kits, vehicle wrapping, privacy glass, bespoke wheel colouring and accident repairs.

Harewood also helps young players with freshly minted bank accounts to find the right luxury car for them.

His life outside football first came into the public eye in 2016 when he gave makeovers to some of the 19 BMW i8s that were gifted to Leicester City stars as a reward from the club’s owner for winning the Premier League.

 

Steve Howard

Steve Howard

Hardly the most famous player in this entrepreneurial football team, but Steve Howard’s post-football career is one relevant to everyone he ever shared a pitch with.

The former striker, who plied his trade in the Football League for clubs including Luton Town, Leicester City and Derby County, set up a consultancy business in 2015 to help players with their money.

He decided Platinum Capital Investments, the company he runs with two partners in Chester-le-Street, County Durham – was the right move after giving advice to teammates through his career about smart investments.

“I’ve always invested in property,” he said. “Any increases in salary or bonuses I got went into it, and word got around that I did it.”

Howard, acting upon word-of-mouth referrals, now travels around the country meeting players on a confidential basis, while he also works with high-net worth individuals outside the game.

 

Gennaro Gattuso

Gennaro Gattuso

Many youngsters fantasise about growing up to be a footballer, but former AC Milan star Gennaro Gattuso admitted it was a “dream come true” when he opened his fish shop In 2010.

Named Gattuso & Bianchi – also referencing his confectioner friend Andrea Bianchi – the store in the centre of Gallaratte, near Milan.

The likes of David Beckham and Ronaldinho were among the VIP guests to visit the World Cup and two-time Champions League winner Gattuso’s shop when it launched.

Gattuso said at the time: “Someone might even smile at it but this store is a dream come true for me.

“I wanted to become a fisherman when I was a child, but life’s events have later driven me in different directions.”

 

 

Rio Ferdinand

Rio Ferdinand
Rio Ferdinand on the front cover of his #5 magazine

He was a member of England’s so-called “golden generation”, and now Rio Ferdinand will be counting up a few gold coins with so many business interests.

The 39-year-old, who won six Premier League titles and a Champions League medal as a defender at Manchester United, juggles a number of companies alongside his role as a TV pundit.

Ferdinand set up his record label White Chalk Music with an old school friend in 2005 and signed up musicians like Melody Johnson and Nia Jai.

He opened the swanky Italian restaurant Rosso, based inside a former bank in Manchester, in 2011.

Its name was a nod to his Man United colours – rosso means red in Italian – and the Grade II-listed venue was given a revamp last year.

Showbiz stars and footballers have been known to visit, while many of the club’s parties have been held there.

Ferdinand also ventured into the world of media by launching an online magazine named #5 – the number he wore during his playing days –in 2009.

It has featured the footballer interviewing stars including Boris Becker and Snoop Dogg, although no editions have been published since February 2017.

Also within the #5 brand is a clothing label, which was launched with a range of shoes and accessories in Selfridges in 2010.

A limited collection of men’s sweatshirts, pants, beanie hats, caps, hoodies, T-shirts and bags are now sold on the company’s Five Supply website – via Sports Direct.

It’s not just business that the ex-footballer is involved in, however, as the Rio Ferdinand Foundation provides education and employment pathways to young people by using role models.

 

Ramon Vega

Ramon Vega

During his playing career, Ramon Vega arguably went under the radar as a half-decent centre back who played in the Premier League for an average Tottenham Hotspur between 1997 and 2001.

But the same can’t be said for the former Swiss international’s second career as a hedge fund manager with an office in Mayfair, London.

The 46-year-old is said to have made about £15m since hanging up his boots after founding Vega Swiss Asset Management, which reportedly had £635m of client funds under advisory management in 2015.

In an interview at the time, he talked about how he was going to work at Credit Suisse as a 16-year-old trainee.

He said: “Finance was always part of my football life, from the start at home in Switzerland.

“When I signed for Grasshopper Zurich as a boy, they were piloting an apprenticeship scheme so I did a degree in banking and finance.”

 

 

Louis Saha

Louis Saha Axis Stars

Another ex-Manchester United star who has made the transition from footballer to entrepreneur, Louis Saha is the man behind social media start-up Axis Stars.

The former France international striker launched the company in 2013, the same year he retired after 23 years in the game.

Clearly taking inspiration from his career in sport, Axis Stars provides financial advice for professional athletes, coaches and agents with the aim of preventing bankruptcy – something that has plagued many once-wealthy stars down the years.

Sportsmen who signed up have included Andy Murray, Didier Drogba, Phil Neville and Florent Malouda.

The network gives them a place to chat about lifestyle, insurance finance, physios, sponsorship and anything else related to their carteers.

The venture is part of Saha’s sporting consultancy business Axis 10.

Speaking when it launched, he said: “Now I’ve retired, I still have a huge role to play sharing my experience with young players.

“I wish I had a platform like this as a player – it would have helped me manage my career plan and plan for the future a lot better.”

 

Ryan Bertrand

Ryan Bertrand

The youngest in this enterprising team at 28, Southampton left-back Ryan Bertrand may still have his best years ahead of him and no doubt harbours hopes of adding to his 19 England caps.

But the 2012 Champions League winner also wisely has an eye on the future after founding fintech brokerage firm Silicon Markets with entrepreneurs Louis Bell – a fellow Gillingham youth player – and Matthew Kirkham in May 2015.

Based within the Level 39 tech accelerator in London’s Canary Wharf business district, the company was set up with the aim of revolutionising retail trading with a bespoke offering of advanced machine learning and AI software.

Asked about the reason for his involvement in the business at the time of its launch, Bertrand said: “I kind of wanted to go against the grain – the traditional footballer who reached perhaps mid-30s, stops and then thinks ‘what am I going to do now?’”

Bertrand, who began dabbling in trading when he was 18, also owns Footiemoji with his former Chelsea captain John Terry. As the name suggests, the company produces football-related emojis.