The Secret Life of Retired Footballers

Timothy Wee Timothy Wee

FOX Sports Asia investigates what are some of the unconventional things that retired footballers get up to.

If there is one downside to playing professional football, it is that it is a career with a short shelf life. Unless you are a goalkeeper of course.

Inevitably, with time, age catches up with every footballer. Messi and Ronaldo included!

Noticeably, most ex-players’ passion for the beautiful game means that most goes into fields related to the sport such as coaching or media punditry.

While that is the standard, it is by no means the hard and fast rule.

We did a little digging and find out what are some of the more interesting things that ex-footballers have gotten up to since they left the field of play forever…

George Weah (Liberia)

Forward (Striker)

Having been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since his playing day, retired striker George Weah is now the top dog in his country!

After running twice for office, the ex-Milan and Chelsea man managed to get himself and his party Congress for Democratic Change into the Liberian Senate back in 2014.

The former Ballon d’Or winner was elected as President in last year elections and will take office later this month.

Lillian Thuram (France)

Defender (Centre-back/right-back)

Taking a leaf out of Weah’s book, France’s most capped player Lilian Thuram is a political activist back home – focusing heavily on initiatives in stamping out racism.

The athletic defender, who played for Juventus and Barcelona, invited 80 homeless Parisians to the 2006 World Cup final between France and Italy!

The World Cup and Euros winner also curated an exhibition at the Quai Branly Museum entitled Human Zoos: The Invention of the Savage.

Luis Figo (Portugal)

Forward (Winger/attacking midfielder)

Despite missing out on a second Champions League medal with Inter due to retirement, Luis Figo had eyes for a much bigger prize.

The former Portuguese national team captain wanted to run for the FIFA presidency in 2015 and was backed by Jose Mourinho and David Beckham! Figo ultimately withdrew from the elections, citing the reason that he did not want “absolute power”.

The four-time league winner in both Spain and Italy is also the founder of Network90 – a private members’ networking site catered to the footballing industry.

Ronaldo (Brazil)

Forward (Striker)

Ever the philanthropist, Ronaldo has been a United Nations Development Programme Goodwill Ambassador since 2000. The second-highest goalscorer for the Brazil national side was also the ambassador for the 2014 World Cup.

On top of that, Ronaldo also owns two sports teams (A1 Team Brazil and Fort Lauderdale Strikers). The ex-Barcelona and Real Madrid striker even has his own sports marketing company 9INE – which manages MMA fighter Anderson Silva.

Hidetoshi Nakata (Japan)

Midfielder (Attacking midfielder)

One of the most famous Asian footballers, Hidetoshi Nakata played for Parma, Roma and Bolton in Europe before retiring at 29 years of age in 2006.

The two-time Asian Football Confederation Player of the Year stated that he became disillusioned with the modern football industry, “I could feel that the team were playing just for money and not for the sake of having fun. I always felt that a team was like a big family, but it stopped being like that.”

Since retiring, Nakata has been busy developing his own line of sake and a sake app called Sakenomy. The Japanese fashionista is also an editor-at-large with Monocle magazine.

Andrea Pirlo (Italy)

Midfielder (Defensive midfielder)

Nicknamed “Maestro”, the world shed a collective tear when Andrea Pirlo announced his retirement this year.

Not to worry, the ex-A.C. Milan, Juventus and New York City FC deep-lying playmaker can always go back to his family business Elg Steel – which he owns a stake in obviously.

However, the free-kick specialist is more likely to take charge of his vineyard back in Italy.

Though the self-professed wine connoisseur is actually a pretty decent deadpan actor! Just check out the “Pirlo is not Impressed” video series if you don’t believe us.

Bill Murray, you have been warned…

Mathieu Flamini (France)

Midfielder (Defensive midfielder)

Okay, okay, so technically Mathieu Flamini is not exactly retired. But in fairness, the former Arsenal and Milan has been without a club since being released from Crystal Palace end of last season.

No matter though, since Flamini is rolling in the green as an environmental entrepreneur. A partner of GFBiochemicals, his company is responsible for the manufacture of levulinic acid – an environmental-friendly new resource used for plastic, solvent, fuel and pharmaceutical manufacturing.

Going by how well his business is going, the 2015 NME People of the Year winner might have enough money to buy a football club rather than joining one!

Sun Jihai (China)

Defender (Full-back/centre-back)

Planning ahead, Sun Jihai founded a tech company while in the in the twilight of his footballing career in 2016.

The former Dalian Shide, Manchester City and Crystal Palace defender is now head of Beijing Haiqiu Technology Company (HQ Sports) – specialising in sports tech, media and the datatainment business.

Julius Aghahowa (Nigeria)

Forward (Winger/striker)

Remembered most for his signature back-flip goal celebration, Julius Aghahowa is a hero not just in Shakhtar Donetsk but in his country as well.

Therefore, it is not a stretch that the former Super Eagles goal machine is now back home and contributing to the community as a businessman. He runs one of the biggest supermarket back in his hometown of Benin City.

And if ever in need of more cash, the former Wigan man can fall back on being a part-time model having released a series of dapper photo portraits for his 32th birthday back in 2016!

Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs (England)

Defender (Full-back) and Forward (Winger)

Buddies both on and off the pitch, former Manchester United players Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs are also business partners!

Though both have dabbled in management and media punditry, the industrious pair are the owner of GG Hospitality – a football themed food & beverage and hotel group.

The group opened Café Football and Hotel Football in London back in 2016. Recently, they broke new ground in Southeast Asia by opening a branch of Café Football in Singapore.

On top of that, Neville and Giggs, along with ex-United alumni Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville, decided to become part owners of Salford City FC!

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

Forward (Winger/striker)

Though it is impossible to know for a fact when Cristiano Ronaldo will retire, we thought we bust out our crystal ball and predict what retirement holds for CR7.

Actually, we do not have to do that since the Real Madrid superstar came out this week to Sky Italia that he “want to try other things; for example, to do movies”.

We cannot say we did not see this coming from the vain striker, after all we are guessing hocking blankets and perfume is just not cutting it for Ronaldo.