Friedel's new job is left-field...

6 former players you had no idea were now in director/advisor roles

Footballers often find themselves desperate for something to do that’ll adequately fill the void after retirement, which usually results in management or punditry.

There’s a void that isn’t talked about, though. A grey area which isn’t acknowledged enough for how hilariously Football Manager simulation it feels.

When an ex-player is twiddling their thumbs and still wants a gig in the game, but isn’t good enough to coach or doesn’t fancy the scrutiny of media, they fall into the rabbit hole of becoming a sporting director or an advisor.

One of football’s most underrated tropes, the retired player to sporting director arc is truly like the Wild West.

A club either births a footballing mastermind who propels them to another level of sustainability and success, or they end up being mentioned in articles like this where we unsuccessfully try to sound funny.

You get the gist. Welcome to the simulation, where ex-pros have slipped through the cracks and become directors without any of us noticing.

Brad Friedel

Former Premier League and USMNT goalkeeper Friedel has recently been appointed as an advisor to the board for Turkish Super Lig outfit Besiktas. No, this is not a ChatGPT mishap. That’s a real sentence written by a human, describing a real-life event.

In fairness to Friedel – one of several brilliant, yank stoppers of a beautiful era gone by – he did enjoy a brief spell in Turkey with Galatasaray in the 90s and amassed well over 500 senior appearances in his career.

His experience can’t be questioned; we’re just laughing at the thought of a table of Turkish board members huddled around one person’s phone watching Premier League Years and deciding the bald goalkeeper who continues to pop up might make a good hire.


Your favourite Portuguese-Brazilian midfielder of the 2000s, Deco’s sudden step into football director territory feels very blink and you’ll miss it.

Apparently one day we all blinked and in that time he suddenly spawned in as Barcelona’s current sporting director – his first job outside of playing.

Picturing him in a suit obsessing over spreadsheets and giving it to agents on the phone is something our brains simply cannot comprehend. We’ve got sympathy, though – it’s not been an easy job since he took over in 2023, but he’s doing his best.

Mark Noble

From one midfield maestro to another, nobody could’ve predicted the shocking career change Noble made after retiring at West Ham in 2022, after 18 years with the club as a player.

Of course he became the club’s sporting director. Pretty much immediately, too, barring a bit of annual leave to buy a suit, take the family on holiday and get set up with a club email address. You know, boring admin shit.

He’ll probably take up groundsman duties after he’s bored of being the sporting director. Or take up part-time hours in the club shop after he’s retired. He is Mr. West Ham, after all.

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic

When you think of a sporting director, you think of a cool, calm and collected mind, perhaps analytical in their thought and prepared to accept changes and be willing to compromise in order to strike important deals and work in the interests of every party.

Ibrahimovic has made a career of being one of the game’s most uncompromising folk and an all-round egomaniac, even if he does back it up. It was rather wild, then, seeing him appointed as a director at Milan after his retirement in late 2023.

For a club that has floundered for so long, though, and lost its identity, perhaps the steel and the punk rock that comes with Ibra’s presence was needed.

He certainly made a difference in his second spell as a player, and we’ve no doubt he’s got some pull when it comes to convincing transfer targets. Crack on, Zlatan.

Landon Donovan

Operating outside of Major League Soccer, USMNT legend Donovan co-founded United Soccer Leagues (USL) Championship side San Diego Loyal in 2020 where he was also picking up the slack day-to-day as the head honcho of the club’s soccer operations.

That just isn’t enough for Donovan, though, who clearly can’t help himself from chasing the dragon now he’s not banging in goals every week.

In one of the most unexpected moves yet, the former Everton striker took a job with League One side Lincoln City in 2021 as the club’s strategic advisor, in a bid to enhance the club’s partnerships and better connect them to North America.


Wayne Rooney, Vincent Kompany, Ronald Koeman.

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Robbie Savage

Riddle us this. What’s worse – watching your beloved football club fold, or having to watch them be resurrected through a phoenix club which Robbie Savage has been appointed the face of?

That’s unfortunately a reality for Macclesfield Town fans, with the original club dissolving in 2020, before being revived that same year and renamed ‘Macclesfield FC’. Savage was swiftly appointed a member of the board and now serves as the club’s director of football.

The revived Silkmen are now trying to force their way up from level seven on the English football pyramid, playing in the NPL Premier Division next season.

We dread to think what Savage has decorated his office with. Motorcycle parts, a signed dart board, fake plants, his own quotes on the wall from Champions League nights on TNT – the lot.