It’s almost as if life goes full circle when the retired GOATs of football return to the world’s game in a different capacity.
They could have chosen anything else to do with their free time, but these particular legends decided to stay connected to the game by taking top positions at clubs of their choosing.
Some decide to return to their boyhood club, while others take on a whole new challenge by selecting a lesser-known team.
And then there’s David Beckham, who founded his own.
Here are five players that just couldn’t stay away from the beautiful game, and have gone on to take CEO, presidency or any other executive status at some point in their life post-retirement.
The first of two GOAT goalkeepers on this list.
Oliver Kahn first gained executive status in August 2019 when he joined the board at Bayern Munich. Two years later, he’d improve on this, relieving the retiring Karl-Heinz Rummenigge from his CEO duties and taking over the role.
The German is a legend at Bayern, so it was probably a no-brainer that if he ever decided to enter the world of club administration, that the Bavarians would be the first team to come calling.
Unfortunately, his time as CEO was short-lived. Following a season that saw Bayern win yet another Bundesliga title (their 11th straight), president Herbert Hainer took the controversial decision to fire Khan, having underperformed the board’s expectations.
Hainer even went as far as banning the now 54-year-old from club title celebrations. Harsh.
It remains to be seen what Khan will do now. He does have a coaching license, so he could always pursue that avenue. Perhaps a stint with the German national team is on the cards?
O Fenômeno kickstarted his journey as a football executive when he took a 51% stake in Spanish club Real Valladolid in September 2018.
The World Cup winner paid $33 million to take majority ownership of the club, and since 2020, his shares have increased to 82%. He hasn’t had it easy, though.
Since Ronaldo took charge, Valladolid has been relegated to the second division twice, most recently occurring this past season. Although they fought back to achieve direct promotion to La Liga the first time, they will now have to repeat those results in the upcoming 23/24 season.
With such a huge name at the helm, it’s surprising that the club hasn’t achieved more. It looks like Ronaldo will have to play the long game, and we hope to see Valladolid make history in the coming seasons.
One of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, the 52-year-old Dutchman began his stellar professional career at Ajax.
He would go on to represent Juventus and Fulham, but his best years were played at Manchester United, where he would retire as a club legend in 2011.
Just under 2 years following his retirement, Van der Sar returned to his beloved Ajax as their official marketing director. Promotion would come his way four years after that, as he would become CEO of the historic Dutch club in late 2016.
The legendary shot stopper would maintain this role for years to come, until two months ago when he announced that he would be stepping down from his position after serving on the board for over a decade.
It will be interesting to see what Van der Sar’s plans going forward will be, but for now, that will have to wait. Earlier this month, it was reported that the legend suffered a brain hemorrhage and has been recovering since. In the last few days, new reports have come out saying that he is no longer facing life-threatening danger but remains in intensive care.
We can only hope that this is true, and we wish Van der Sar a full speedy recovery.
Hailed as one of the greatest Argentine players of all time, the Boca Juniors legend returned to his beloved club four years after calling it quits to his 19-year playing career.
It wasn’t to step back on the field, though. In December 2019, Riquelme became Vice President of Boca Juniors under newly elected president Jorge Ameal, who came out on top in an election that saw him secure over half of the votes from 84,000 Boca supporters.
It was written in the stars. “El Último Diez” is a legend of the Argentina top-flight league, having played in his home country for most of his career. Although he ultimately retired with Argentinos Juniors in 2015, he couldn’t stay away from Boca for too long.
Who better to help the club move forward than one of your own legends, respected and loved by millions?
It all started back when the Man United and England legend made a shock move to the United States to join LA Galaxy from Real Madrid - he was only 31 years old.
The terms of his MLS contract were crucial in the long run: the league had given him the option to start an MLS expansion franchise after his retirement. Just over a year after hanging up the boots, he exercised this option.
Paying up $25 million, Beckham began his journey as a soon-to-be CEO of what would eventually become South Florida’s first ever franchise MLS team.
Inter Miami CF was officially founded in January 2018, playing their first MLS game two years later in March of 2020.
Flash forward to present day, and Beckham’s side hasn’t seen much success at all. That may change soon, though, with Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets being brought in to perhaps finally bring the club to the heights that you’d expect a team in a city like Miami to reach.
Truth be told, we don’t know how Beckham did it, but he did. If that’s not a testament to the level he has reached as a businessman and club president, we don’t know what is.