It’s no secret, being a professional soccer player in the English Premier League can bring in the big bucks for those who are successful. Unfortunately, soccer careers are short lived and those who don’t manage their money well while they’re raking in the pounds can quickly hit rock bottom once retiring. According to an article in The Irish Times, unsustainable consumption, combined with falling incomes and bad investments can help contribute to these players’ downfalls.
The players who plan for their retirements are typically the ones who are most successful, while those who spend exorbitantly are typically the ones who fall the fastest. Check out the 15 former English Premier League players who went from skyhigh to rock bottom in a flash. Some of have been able to get back on their feet after reaching rock bottom, while others haven't been so quick to get up.
15 Kenny Sansom
At one time, Kenny Sansom held the record for the most caps for a full-back position on the English National Team. He spent 1975-1994 playing professionally on English Premier League teams, including powerhouse Arsenal. Although he showed signs of alcohol abuse while in the Premier League, he has been struggling with alcohol addiction ever since leaving the league.
In August of 2016, he was spotted passed out in a grocery store parking lot with two empty wine bottles. According to The Daily Mail, his friends believe he will be dead soon if he doesn’t, yet again, seek treatment for his addiction. Apparently his drinking stems from being unable to cope with his emotions, so he turns to the bottle to relieve those feelings. Not only has alcohol affected his health, it has also caused him to become estranged from his children and have trouble keeping lasting relationships. When he was spotted in the grocery store parking lot, a source said that he was now homeless due to a fallout with his fiance.
14 Alan Hudson
In 2013 it was reported that the former Chelsea star had been living in a homeless hostel after struggling with bad financial investments, alcohol abuse, gambling, and an old injury from being hit by a car. Hudson traces all of his problems back to that accident in 1997, from there his life began to spiral out of control.
Hudson spent 59 days in a coma only to wake up and find out that his wife didn’t want him to come home. He moved in with his mother until she passed away in 2003 and he was told to vacate the premises. He made a bad property investment in Cyprus that ate up £150,000.
Hudson was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014, which lead to a fundraiser in May 2015 to help the former footballer get out of his dire situation. Hopefully now his luck has turned around!
13 David James
Excessive spending is the name of the game when it came to bankruptcy of David James. His excessive spending lead to him having to auction off a lot of his personal belongings in order to cover the debt after he filed for bankruptcy in May 2014. The items included in the auction were numerous jerseys, balls, bicycles, and various exercise equipment. At his peak, he was earning £50,000 a week, leading to spending habits that couldn’t keep up with his salary after he left the league. He is a case of a soccer player living “in the now” instead of planning for a future when those £50,000 were no longer coming in who was unable to adjust to his limited income. He's currently working for BT Sport, so let's hope he's saving better than he did as a player.
12 Garry O’Connor
Garry O’Connor’s career was plagued with injuries that caused him to have mental health issues. For him, alcohol abuse turned into hanging out with the “wrong people” that influenced him to do cocaine. According to Scotsman.com, he spent “£4 million on fast cars, the best champagne and other indulgences of a footballer swamped by too much, too soon.” It very nearly cost him his family and all of the other things he held near and dear to his heart. In February 2015, he crashed his Mercedes into a hearse in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Today, he lives a simpler life while being the caretaker manager for Selkirk and he’s put his days of excess far behind him.
11 Adrian Mutu
Adrian Mutu was a successful midfielder who had 161 goals throughout his career playing for powerhouse teams like Chelsea. His tenure at Chelsea didn’t stay long, lasting for just over a year. During his second season at Chelsea, Jose Mourinho was brought in as a new manager. Mutu and Mourinho clashed. He was released from Chelsea in October 2004, after failing a random drug test. At the time, he admitted he had used cocaine due to depression. He was suspended by the English Football Association for seven months and ordered to pay a fine. Mutu has has continued to have a somewhat scandalous life. In November 2015, the star married 22 year old model Sandra Bachici, his third marriage by the age of 36.
10 Keith Gillespie
Keith Gillespie started young, as in an interview with The Telegraph, he said that he “got involved with gambling pretty much straight away” when he joined Manchester United at the age of 16. He didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so he thought money was the key to happiness. He estimated that he lost £7,215,875 over his career, mostly through gambling but also through bad investments. In the same interview he said that one of his lowest points was “after a 48-hour gambling spree” he “lost £47,000 in one day, only to lose £15,000 the next.” In 2013, he released an autobiography detailing his struggles with gambling, drugs and alcohol. In another interview with The Daily Mail, he said “I feel lucky now that I have a second chance.” We hope he takes it!
9 Brad Friedel
Goalkeeper Brad Friedel had big dreams when he purchased Premier Soccer Academy. Little did he know, it would force him into bankruptcy and leave him with little to show for his successful career in both the English Premier League and the US National team. His big dream was to grow soccer in America and with his $9 million plan, there was little that stood in his way. But then the 2008 recession hit, which left investors either too cautious or too broke to invest in his ideas. The facility was finally foreclosed upon in 2009 as Friedel was declared bankrupt and Friedel unfortunately lost most of his investment in the facility. By the time it finally sold, it was sold for $2.4 million and there was little Friedel could do to recoup his losses.
8 Paul Merson
In his heyday, Paul Merson played for the likes of Arsenal and Aston Villa. According to an interview with his ex-wife, Lorraine Fletcher, in the The Daily Mail, he “battled with… adultery, drink, drug and gambling addictions.” At his lowest point, Merson cashed in his £800,000 pension and lost it all gambling. Even now that he’s retired from professional soccer and works as a broadcaster, he still hasn’t overcome his gambling addiction, saying that he “only play[s] with small amounts that [he] can afford” because “no bookie in the world would give [him] credit.” His addictive lifestyles has not only caused him to lose his money, but also two marriages and his relationships with his six children.
7 Tony Adams
Tony Adams is a legend for Arsenal, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have demons. He first turned to drinking when he was a teenager to help him get over a soccer injury. Adams has not been sober for years, but that wasn't always the case. At his lowest, he served 58 days in prison for drunk-driving. In a visit with prisoners in 2002, Adams told The Guardian that he “would have never have got fit back in ‘96 - and Arsenal would probably have had to sack me if I had kept on drinking.” Today he’s not the same man, he wants to be known as “‘a coach’ and not someone still imprisoned by the first half of his life.” He knows that even though addiction is a lifelong battle, there is happiness on the other side.
6 Paul McGrath
Paul McGrath struggled with alcohol addiction throughout his career, even though he was a solid player for both Manchester United and Aston Villa. He even admitted to playing games with alcohol in his system. “I ran around the pitch trying to hold my breath on occasion,” he said in an interview with the Daily Mail. He grew up in orphanages and realized that he communicated better with people when he’d had a drink. He said of his mental state that “they could have locked me in a room with several [psychologists]” and he’d “have screwed the lot of them up.” Although he struggled with alcoholism and self-esteem issues throughout his professional career, McGrath was undoubtedly one of the best players to come out of Ireland, with 8 goals in 83 caps.
5 Gary Charles
Gary Charles was a successful player for Aston Villa, but he was plagued with injuries throughout his career. He was sentenced to four months in prison in 2004 for dangerous driving in which he wrecked his car and refused to take a breathalyzer test to test his blood-alcohol level. Today, Charles has beaten his addiction and partnered to start Priority Health Care, which is an organization that helps fight addiction. His focus with the organization is to help young players battle their own demons before they get as out of control as those that he had to battle. He does know that addiction is a lifelong battle, telling The Mirror that his “recovery is part of [his] battle.
4 Lee Hendrie
At one point in his career, Lee Hendrie earned £40,000 per week, a sum greater than a lot of people make in a year. Unlike some soccer players, he was trying to prepare for life-after-soccer by buying properties that he thought would help secure his place in the world. Hendrie believed that where he was investing for his future was a definite thing and, instead of diversifying, invested almost all of his money into properties. Then the property market crashed and Hendrie was declared bankrupt in 2012. The loss of his money hit Hendrie, who had suffered from severe depression in the past, to feel that he had hit rock bottom. In a 2013 interview with Express and Star he said, ”everything felt like it was crumbling around me as I came to the end of my career. Where do you go from there?”
Today, Hendrie runs his own football academy where students go to study soccer and also have the opportunity to take classes and better the non-soccer-playing part of themselves.
3 Chris Sutton
Former Chelsea and Blackburn player, Chris Sutton, went from rags to riches after what he called “bad financial advice.” Unfortunately, Sutton put his trust into a financial adviser who didn’t truly have his best interests in mind. He and his wife had invested £100,000 in a scheme that involved spread betting foreign currency. Before his financial advisor was arrested and jailed, Sutton was “led to believe that [he] was making a profit on the investment.” Situations like these remind people, whether professional soccer players or not, that it’s always a good idea to know where your money is actually going and how it will turn a profit. Lest you learn the woes of Chris Sutton and see it all vanish before your eyes.
2 Richard Rufus
Some players are so desperate to hold onto their Premier League lifestyle that they will do whatever it takes to maintain it. This was the case for Richard Rufus and his £25,000 a month lifestyle. Leading up to 2015, Rufus created a scheme that would help to fund his lifestyle and took advantage of 93 investors. Rufus and his “staff” took advantage of those who were closest to him. One of the victims of the scheme told The Telegraph that “the person who I gave the funds was someone I’ve known for about 30 years so, as a judge of him, I trusted him.” As part of his punishment for this scheme, Rufus had 15-year bankruptcy restriction order placed on him, but as his victims may tell you, that may not be enough.
1 Paul Gascoigne
In July 2016, Paul Gascoigne was pictured stepping out of a taxi wearing only a bathroom, which reportedly fell open to reveal that he was in the nude underneath the robe. More recently in September 2016, he pleaded guilty to racially aggravated abuse and was fined £1,000 for a joke that “humiliated” a security guard that was hired to protect him. Gascoigne has battled with alcoholism for over a decade; he has been in and out of treatment facilities over the past decade, but so far none have seemed to help. One thing is for certain, if Gascoigne doesn’t get his alcoholism under control, there could be more unfortunate instances like the taxi cab and continued effects on his health.