For how mind-blowingly lucrative a career in top-level football can prove, even if a player doesn’t fulfil their potential, stories of post-playing career bankruptcy are worryingly common.
Nobody is safe from the reality of life. It’s been proven time and time again by some of the biggest names in the game that no matter how many millions one can accumulate, it can all disappear in the blink of an eye.
Football is a dream career, but also a short one. That’s why it’s vital to plan ahead. Unfortunately, not every ex-pro has managed to keep their head above water after hanging up their boots.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the biggest names to declare themselves bankrupt.
In 2018, Ronaldinho had his passport seized, along with his brother, after they had failed to repay a fine of 8.5 million Brazilian Real (around £1.7million) for being convicted of illegally constructing on an environmental protection area in 2015.
The Barcelona legend had been defaulting on payments and had his passport seized so that he was unable to flee his home nation of Brazil. It was reported that he had been found with little over £5 in his bank account.
Things didn’t get much easier for Ronaldinho, either, who was arrested in Paraguay in 2020 – again with his brother – after being found to have travelled using fake documents.
He was imprisoned in March that month, eventually getting out in August after reports claimed that friend and former teammate Samuel Eto’o paid the prison around €1.37m for his release.
The former Arsenal man found himself going through a divorce and subsequent legal battle with his wife in 2017, around the same time he was trying to get back on his feet following a one-year ban from football.
Reports at the time suggested that Eboue had essentially lost everything he owned and had been living in dire straights, including being quoted as saying he was poor and homeless, but he later came out and played down those rumours in 2021.
Talking to Citi Sports, he confirmed that while he did lose all of his assets in England – two houses, cars and finances – to his wife during the divorce, he didn’t lose everything and instead moved back to Africa where he still had property in Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
What’s a list on the internet about football without our Royston, eh?
Everyone’s favourite Real Madrid and Everton flop turned rapper, Drenthe declared bankruptcy in 2020 after it had emerged that he had lost a staggering £3.2m. The fortune of being on the books at Real for five years had vanished.
He was still playing football after going bankrupt, plying his trade in the Dutch and Spanish third tiers.
Premier League cult hero and Ghana’s all-time leading scorer Gyan was reported to be ‘broke’ by a number of English outlets in 2018, while playing in Turkey for Kayserispor.
It is claimed that he became estranged from his wife and children and had around £600 in his bank account. Gyan himself came out and denied the reports shortly after they surfaced, though, and claimed he was earning more money in Turkey after moving from China.
We’re not saying he was lying, but it wouldn’t be too outrageous to suggest he might not have told the full story. Gyan started up Baby Jet Airlines in 2017, a proposed airline company that was ready to go after being approved, but ultimately failed to (literally) get it off the ground before it ceased operations in 2019.
Capped 53 times for England and enjoying a long, fruitful career in the Premier League, it was a shock to hear the news that James was declared bankrupt in 2014.
It was estimated that the former goalkeeper had earnt about £20m during his career, but he’d accumulated a build-up of debt following a divorce from his wife in 2005. Two years later, he sold off countless football memorabilia to pay off his debts, and has since carved out a career in media.
The greatest footballer of all time in the eyes of many, everyone knew that Maradona wasn’t afraid to enjoy himself. Earning a reputation as a party animal, Maradona’s drug and alcohol use was a constant struggle.
In 2009, he filed for bankruptcy after being chased for a £42m bill from the Italian Tax Authority from his time at Napoli.
Here's Diego Maradona giving Jose Luis Chilavert a round of applause and a high 10 for saving one of his free-kicks. Outstanding stuff all round.pic.twitter.com/ciEpYfF71n
— Planet Football (@planetfutebol) September 20, 2022
So good they named him twice, Djemba-Djemba flopped miserably at Manchester United and moved to Aston Villa in 2005 after two years on the books at Old Trafford.
He was declared bankrupt in September 2007 by a Birmingham court, with reports detailing his reckless spending running rife. It wwas previously claimed by his agent at the time that at one point he had 30 different bank accounts, with him simply having ‘no notion of money’.
Djemba-Djemba spoke to the Daily Star in 2021 and dismissed claims from yesteryear, taking particular aim at a suggestion that he once had 10 cars. He did, however, admit that ‘it was difficult handling the money’ and that he has ‘learned’.
John Arne Riise
The former Liverpool man has become scarily familiar with bankruptcy in his post-playing career.
Riise has been involved in several bankruptcies, first in 2007 while he was still at Anfield. An unpaid debt of £100,000 was supposedly linked to an investigation into fraud in Norway, involving £3million.
He’s also found himself tangled in companies associated with him going bust, and was sued by an ex-wife for removing funds belonging to a bank account of his child.
It’s been a bumpy ride for the Norwegian on the finances front.
Known best for his time at Chelsea from 1997 to 2005, the Nigerian was declared bankrupt in 2011 after retiring from football in 2008.
Reports at the time suggested Babayaro had stopped taking care of his £475,000 property in Middlesex, according to neighbours, which raised suspicions about him falling on hard times.