• Top lists

Top 10 Footballers Who Went Bankrupt

© arnau(BCN)

Financial mismanagement is a plight that affects individuals from all walks of life, including professional athletes. Despite earning vast sums of money during their careers, some footballers have found themselves in dire financial straits, often leading to bankruptcy. In this article, we delve into the lives of ten footballers who, despite their success on the pitch, faced significant financial downfall.

10. The Fall of Alexander Kerzhakov

The Russian former football star Alexander Kerzhakov experienced a considerable downfall following his successful playing career. Working as a coach in Serbia for Spartak with a modest salary of $2000 a month, he appreciated the financial stability it offered. However, Kerzhakov admitted in an interview that he had lost almost all the earnings from his playing days, estimating a loss in the region of $10 million. He had invested in a fraudulent oil refinery, among other failed ventures, leading to a significant financial loss. Despite not being bankrupt, Kerzhakov’s current financial situation is a far cry from his illustrious past, and he now lives a modest lifestyle.

9. The Financial Missteps of Wes Brown

Wes Brown, a Manchester United academy product and Premier League defender, ended up bankrupt due to a lifestyle of extravagance and poor financial decisions. Despite earning a peak salary of £50,000 per week and accumulating an estimated 10 million euros over his career, Brown could not escape financial ruin. His drive to live like a football superstar, along with unsuccessful real estate deals and a penchant for online gambling, led to significant losses. Five years after retirement, he found himself renting from his former teammate Marcus Rashford at a ‘friendly price,’ with British courts declaring him bankrupt in April 2023.

8. Royston Drenthe’s Showbiz Gamble

Once touted as one of football’s most promising talents, Dutch footballer Royston Drenthe’s career took a nosedive following a stint at Real Madrid. He later admitted to wasting substantial amounts of money on lavish lifestyles, such as flying in private jets. His foray into the fashion industry and show business proved disastrous. Drenthe released a few rap singles under the moniker Ro to Da Faes, but low views and an unsuccessful bid to become the next James Bond marked his failed attempts in entertainment. By December 2020, Royston Drenthe was declared bankrupt and had to take a job caring for dementia patients before making a modest comeback in lower league football.

7. Mark Bosnich’s Battle with Addiction

Australian goalkeeper Mark Bosnich, notable for his time at Manchester United and Chelsea, faced a career-threatening situation when he was found to be using cocaine. After a failed drug test and subsequent ban, Bosnich struggled to find a new club and fell deeper into drug addiction. At one point, his daily cocaine usage cost thousands per week, depleting his football earnings and nearly leading to a tragic altercation with his father. After a period of rehabilitation and getting clean, Bosnich undertook a commendable comeback to professional football despite his past troubles. His story serves as a stark reminder of the dangers of drug abuse, even for successful athletes.

6. The Downfall of Ivan Saenko

Ivan “Vanya” Saenko, once a triumphant member of the 2008 Russian national team, saw his fortune dwindle almost to nothing. He developed a penchant for alcohol and was deemed as not very clever, which saw him part ways with Spartak after being caught drinking. Saenko disappeared from the public eye, until he was found by journalists living like a vagrant, as described by his teammate Pavlyuchenko. Saenko reportedly invested all he had earned in purchasing land in Africa, led astray by his best friend who later betrayed him. It was the same friend who had embroiled Alexander Kerzhakov in the fraudulent oil refinery investment, resulting in Saenko losing 150 million rubles. Kerzhakov lost even more, over 300 million rubles. Court attempted to recover the funds, but the pseudo businessman had nothing left in his accounts, causing both Kerzhakov and Saenko to rely on paltry wages for the foreseeable future.

5. Multiple Footballers’ Failing Business Ventures

The fifth place is shared by several footballers who invested heavily in real business projects but ultimately failed. Christian Vieri, a Serie A star, declared bankruptcy in 2015 due to an unsuccessful business attempt with his mother. Their company, BFC, which had a chain of restaurants and spas, suffered losses close to 16 million euros and went bankrupt. As a result, at 43 years old, Vieri considered resuming his player career, a move the football world was grateful to avoid seeing. Similarly, Jermaine Pennant, who played for Arsenal and Liverpool, was officially declared bankrupt in early 2023. His company, German Pant Limit, disappeared, leaving him with a debt of 1 million pounds to tax authorities, leading to the seizure of his assets. Craig Bellamy, with a troubled past and shaky business endeavors, also reported financial difficulties in recent years. Bellamy cited divorce and poor investments as the main causes for his financial ruin, and UK tax authorities confiscated his assets to settle his debts. A sad reminder that even with no experience, one should start with small investments and not stake all of their earned money, no matter how significant it might be.

4. The Charitable Debacle of Brad Friedel

American goalkeeper Brad Friedel ended up facing financial distress near the end of his career due to his charitable efforts, making his story particularly heart-wrenching. Having earned a substantial salary during his stints with Liverpool, Blackburn, Aston Villa, and Tottenham, Friedel invested 16 million dollars in creating an academy for talented youth in his hometown of Bay Village, Ohio. He aimed to prepare them for successful careers in Europe. However, the non-profit project encountered financial troubles, accumulating nearly 10 million dollars in debt, exacerbated in part by the 2008 financial crisis. Friedel tried to stave off financial ruin by taking his case to the UK courts, seeking protection from bankruptcy, but justice was unrelenting, and Friedel had to surrender his American real estate towards the academy’s debts, as well as nearly all his salary from Tottenham. Friedel’s story is a cautionary tale about the risks of even well-intentioned philanthropy.

3. Paul Merson’s Gambling Addiction:

Paul Merson, a legendary player for Arsenal in the 80s and 90s, won multiple championships and a Europa Cup but ultimately succumbed to bankruptcy due to a gambling addiction that began very early in his career. Known to have blown his first professional paycheck on betting, Merson’s struggle with gambling persisted throughout his life. Over the years, he squandered an estimated 7 million pounds on bets spanning from soccer to dog races and even Eurovision. His trouble with alcohol intensified his betting woes. Despite multiple marriages and six children, he found himself in financial disarray, leading to a late retirement at 51. Now at 55, after wasting £800,000 in pension savings on gambling, Merson relies on media work and a stringent arrangement with his present wife to manage his finances, receiving allowance money from her. His tragic tale is a stark example of the destructive power of gambling addiction.

2. The Tragic Fall of Emmanuel Eboué

Emmanuel Eboué, formerly a mainstay at the top club Arsenal, came from a humble background with 12 brothers and sisters. His father worked in the docks and passed away when Emmanuel was 15. Eboué rose to prominence through sheer football talent and by 2004 found himself at Arsenal, earning Wenger’s belief as a key right back, notably playing uninterrupted during the Champions League campaign that saw the Gunners reach the finals. However, his fall came as a result of entrusting his finances to the wrong people, including a spouse who gradually assumed control over them. After his career in Turkey ended and a FIFA ban due to a dispute with his agent, Emmanuel Eboué’s wife initiated a divorce, which depleted his wealth, leaving him living in fear of police eviction, unable to afford a lawyer. Eboué ended up penniless, staying with friends, grateful for his grandmother’s early life lessons. In recent years, news came that he returned to his homeland, remarried his childhood sweetheart, and is now scouting talents for Galatasaray’s academy in Ivory Coast—a modest income to rebuild his life.

1. The Mismanaged Riches of Ronaldinho

Ronaldinho, the football icon of the 2000s and beloved global superstar, infamously squandered an enormous fortune, despite having earned upwards of 80 million euros in 2014 from football alone, with commercial endorsements likely pushing that figure to 150 million. However, in 2019, he made headlines when 57 properties were confiscated due to unpaid taxes and fines. Known for his playboy lifestyle and extravagant spending, including on luxury cars, his biggest financial blow came the same year. Ronaldinho was fined $8.5 million for illegal construction in a protected area and was unable to pay because his accounts were empty. This led to the seizure of not only property but also his Brazilian and Spanish passports. Legal troubles continued with an arrest in Paraguay for using fake documents. While his fame ensures he’s not destitute, Ronaldinho’s story is a stark warning about financial irresponsibility, earning him the top spot on this list for mismanaging a fortune larger than all other featured players, yet finding himself unable to meet the state’s demands. Ronaldinho’s tale is a testament to how one can go from sports legend to a cautionary financial fable.

Last words

The stories of these footballers serve as potent reminders of the transient nature of wealth and the necessity of prudent financial management. From the glitz and glamour of professional sports to the harsh reality of bankruptcy, their journeys offer valuable lessons for both aspiring athletes and individuals alike.