Whether it’s them teaming up with Nike, Adidas or Puma to release their very own boots or simply using the weight of their name to endorse a company of their choosing, these athletes will always be sought after for more than just what they can do on the field.
It’s hardly surprising in the grand scheme of things. With the many millions that these players rack up every season, it’s really not that hard for one to just wake up one morning and decide they want to sell some underwear.
It’s not always for everyone, though. Although a good player’s name may have much value and icon status attached to it, sometimes the product or idea just won’t sell.
In this blog, we won’t be mentioning the obvious names like David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. These guys have successfully had their hand in business for the better part of the last decade, so if you are somehow unaware of their entrepreneurial history, we recommend going to Google. 😅
Without further ado, here are a number of footballers, past and present, that have successfully (or unsuccessfully) ventured into the tough world of business.
Kicking off this list is a player that many people would probably not expect to be involved in some entrepreneurship. But he is.
Or at least, he was. Jesse Lingard, who is currently without a club after the expiration of his contract at Nottingham Forest, launched his own clothing line back in 2018 while he was still at Manchester United.
It wasn’t well-received by former United legends Roy Keane and Gary Neville, though. They called it a distraction from football, and that Lingard should wait until after he retires if he really wants to run a business.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be for the 30-year-old. The brand, known as JLINGZ, racked up severe losses of over $250,000 in its first year. Since then, the shop has had its doors closed.
Perhaps slightly more successfully, Lingard has his own Esports team under the same name, which has already secured a number of interesting partnership deals.
The 4-time UCL winner seemed to be a natural when he played his first few cards as a full-fledged businessman.
2 years into his decade-long AC Milan career, Clarence Seedorf would launch his own restaurant chain known as Finger’s, which focuses on Japanese cuisine. Its first location is located in the famous Italian city, and since then numerous other outlets have opened up.
To continue establishing himself as a true entrepreneur, the legendary Dutch midfielder pursued a Master’s degree in business back in 2011. In the final years of his illustrious playing career, he would get involved in some punditry, even writing his own column for the NY Times.
Since retiring in 2014, Seedorf has found himself involved in many other projects, including a partnership in 2021 with UFC legend Khabib Nurmagomedov to launch the Seedorf Khabib Performance Club in Dubai.
Perhaps most impressive of all is that the 47-year-old is apparently fluent in six (yes, six!) languages: Dutch, English, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Sranan Tongo. Incredible.
Controversy aside, the Blaugrana legend is undoubtedly a marketing genius.
In 2017, Gerard Pique founded Kosmos Global Holding, which he uses to invest in various different industries and organizations.
Among these investments is the Kings League, a 7v7 football league established in 2022 by the retired defender. It has been hugely successful in such a short period of time, even bringing in names like Ronaldinho, Andrea Pirlo and Sergio Agüero to play in the league.
Fun fact: the latter actually has his own team that participates, known as Kunisports. It’s safe to say that the Argentine and Man City legend has been a bit of an entrepreneur himself since retiring.
Pique is also the owner of FC Andorra, a third division Spanish club.
At 41 years old, the Swedish legend finally hung up his boots following a special return to AC Milan that saw him lift a fifth Serie A trophy in his third season back at the club.
If this says anything at all about Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it’s that anything that he touches seems to turn into gold.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be the case for the clothing line he debuted in 2016, known as A-Z. The store was launched while he was at Manchester United, and saw solid growth the following year.
Eventually, it just became too expensive to maintain and - after two years of losses totaling over $23 million - the company was forced to shut down.
Since then, Zlatan has been involved in other ventures, even buying a near 25% share in Swedish club Hammarby IF in 2019.
He’ll have a lot more time on his hands now that he’s retired, so it will be interesting to see what other business plans he has stored up.
They say class never goes out of style, and Andres Iniesta is a prime example of that.
It only makes sense that the legendary Spanish midfielder would try his hand as an entrepreneur, and gracefully so. He has gone on to inherit his family’s winery, known as the Bodega Iniesta, which has been producing some of the finest wines and distributing them across Spain and beyond since 1999.
It’s no question that the World Cup winner is one of the most respected players of all time, perhaps only hated by some Dutch fans (sorry, we had to mention it). With a double-degree to his name, the 39-year-old is truly a role model to young athletes around the world.
Iniesta’s other business ventures include being a majority shareholder of childhood club Albacete as well as in sports broadcasting company FirstVision alongside NBA star Serge Ibaka.
The German midfield maestro may as well have one of the fastest growing business portfolios while still being an active player.
Mesut Özil is the boss of his own M10 streetwear company and esports team. On top of that, he owns a chain of neat coffee shops, a sports clinic, and even teamed up with his former Arsenal teammate Mathieu Flamini to run a successful Unity Health supplements lab in 2018.
The World Cup winner also owns shares in the LIGA MX club Necaxa, along with actress Eva Longoria and model Kate Upton.
To further his M10 brand, Özil has also entered the world of crypto, creating his own currency in 2021 and even collaborating on some NFT art. Talk about versatility both on and off the pitch.
We mentioned Mathieu Flamini earlier, and the former Marseille, Arsenal and Milan midfielder is the man to finish off our list.
At this stage, it’s very much arguable that Frenchman is more well-known for his achievements as a climate-change fighting CEO rather than his 16-year football career. And that’s no disrespect to his playing abilities.
$14 billion. That’s how much Flamini and his combined business ventures are estimated to be worth. It all comes primarily from the biochemical company known as GF Biochemicals, that he co-founded in 2008 alongside Pasquale Granata.
Yes, a multi-billion dollar company, established when he was still 11 years from hanging up the boots. Today, the enterprise is estimated to one day be worth upwards of $22 billion. Mind-boggling numbers.
The company famously became the first in the world to mass-produce levulinic acid, and since the breakthrough, the US Department of Energy has identified the substance as being key for the planet to continue transitioning to green energy.
Basically, Mathieu Flamini is out here saving the world. We already mentioned the wellness company that he runs with Ozil, so there’s that on his résumé, too.
Because of his efforts in the energy and bioscience industry, he was named one of the People of the Year by the NME in 2015. He was also recognized as one of the top 100 promising business moguls in a list that came out in 2018.
We’re with you all the way, Flamini.