Top 15 Footballers Who Went From Riches to Rags

In the modern game, there are those players who have it all and then there are those individuals who did have the lot. With the likes of Wayne Rooney earning in excess of $500,000 a week alongside a host of prestigious sponsorship deals, money can be no object for some.

A player may have had to graft for a while playing in the small leagues. On the other hand, an individual could wait for a lifetime opportunity while sitting on the bench for a Premier League team. They could even be a prodigy with boundless energy waiting in the wings for their youth side. Whichever way circumstances dictate, there is only one chance to make an impact.

Yet for some, this can lead to disaster. As the melange of adoration, money and off field activities can reveal, a footballer’s existence is certainly a charmed one at best. Some take to gambling on the back of team coaches, whilst others inject cash into get rich quick property schemes. Whatever the situation some footballers may face their lifestyle as well as their money can be gone as quick as their careers.

According to charity Xpro, as many as 60% of Premier League starlets have been declared penniless within the space of five years of hanging up their boots. Meanwhile, across the pond, nearly 80% of American football players have got themselves into all sorts of financial stress after just a couple of years out of the game. At the end of the day, a professional athlete’s career may only span a decade at best. But some choose to squander their money for a number of different reasons.

Unfortunately, thanks to off the pitch vices, mismanagement of finances and bad advice, here are just a few footballers who went from riches to rags.

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Start Now

15 Lee Hendrie

via birminghammail.co.uk

It was once all smooth sailing for former Aston Villa midfielder Lee Hendrie. He was earning more than $50,000 per week playing at Villa Park at the height of his career. He also managed to achieve a solitary England cap during his playing career. Considered to be one of the finest home grown players at the end of the 20th century, he went from strength to strength. By his mid-30's it was a completely different story as his lavish lifestyle came to bite him hard. Having spent millions on luxury cars as well as lavish mansions, he was declared bankrupt in 2012 after a series of escalating debts including repossession of his properties.

14 Chris Sutton

via mirror.co.uk

Former Blackburn Rovers and Norwich City striker Chris Sutton was the first player to go for £5 million, a British record at the time. He went on to enjoy a spell at Chelsea but this did not detract from poor financial counsel. Ultimately this would prove to be his downfall and in May 2014, he was proclaimed insolvent by the courts. In spite of the English centre forward falling foul of a get quick rich scheme where he was allegedly making a profit, Sutton was done out of more than $150,000.

13 Keith Gillespie

via mirror.co.uk

A true riches to rags story, Keith Gillespie’s tale is one of the most controversial of the lot. The former Newcastle United and Manchester United winger was heavily involved in not only drinking habits, but excessive gambling habits. In fact he allegedly placed bets on his manager at the time, Sir Alex Ferguson. In addition to this, Gillespie’s addiction became so bad that he lost more than $100,000 on the horses in just one afternoon. This was the demon that would cost him the majority of his career earnings which totaled an incredible $10 million.

12 David James

via kapital971.com

Finishing his footballing career in the depths of Iceland may not have been the smartest move, but former Liverpool goalkeeper David James saw his illustrious career literally stop short. Having played both for Portsmouth and appearing at the FIFA 2010 World Cup for England, James was a major figure in the game. He played for more than two decades and also pulled on the jersey for Aston Villa, West Ham United and Manchester City. His career earnings saw him bring in more than $30 million which saw him strut his stuff as a model for fashion label Armani. In 2005, James needed the funds in order to settle a costly divorce and later filed for insolvency this year.

11 John Arne Riise

via talksport.com

At the peak of his powers, former left back John Arne Riise was bombing down the channels for Liverpool not to mention Fulham. Earning in excess of $80,000 a week, his sweet left foot conjured up a wide variety of crosses and his free kicks were a trademark. However, this did not stop the former Merseysider from ending up in court. This was due to an unpaid debt of around $150,000. Furthermore, he was involved in a bitter legal wrangle with his agent at the time, Einar Baardsen over a suspected $5 million fraud.

10 Celestine Babayaro

via standard.co.uk

Once on $45,000 a week, former marauding Newcastle United and Chelsea defender Celestine Babayaro was more used to terrorising players than high courts. He made more than 60 appearances for the Toon Army and appeared for the Blues on several occasions. However this did not stop the Nigerian international from a court order being made in Croydon. Despite being signed by Newcastle for $2.5 million, Babayaro racked up crippling debt and was later released in 2007.

9 Eric Djemba-Djemba

via theguardian.co.uk

Another ex-Manchester United man makes it onto the list and this time it is former midfield ace Eric Djemba-Djemba. With career earnings in the region of $6 million, the Red Devil and Aston Villa player was declared bankrupt over outstanding debts he owed. The Cameroon international managed to break into the United team but was soon sent on his way after a string of unsuccessful performances. After some time in the footballing wilderness, Djemba-Djemba ended up this year at lowly Scottish side St. Mirren.

8 Jason Euell

via talksport.com

Another popular striker who ended up in financial strife is former Wimbledon and Charlton striker Jason Euell. The Ex Addick simply had no choice after becoming a fraud victim. Now in his mid 30's Euell discovered that a property company had been forging his signature and had gone down the drain. After discovering a wide variety of financial discrepancies, Kingston-upon-Thames County Court heard the whole scenario play out where Euell had to file for insolvency. Euell played at the highest level for more than 15 years and enjoyed career earnings topping the $7 million mark.

7 Carl Cort

via chroniclelive.co.uk

Born in 1977, Carl Cort was a promising striker for Wimbledon before embarking on a big money transfer to Newcastle United. At his peak, Cort was earning around $45,000 per week for the Magpies where he bagged several goals. After playing to an adoring crowd at St. James Park of over 50,000 fans, Cort eventually moved on to several clubs. This included the likes of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Leicester City and Norwich City. However, this did not stop the Guyanese player from having to put in a bankruptcy order later on in his career.

6 Alan Hudson

via independent.co.uk

A footballer's path can be a rocky one, none more so than former Chelsea and Stoke City player Alan Hudson. A crowd favourite in the 1970’s, Hudson helped the Blues to victory in the 1971 European Cup Winners Cup. Now long retired from the beautiful game he once loved, Hudson cuts a forlorn figure. Most people would be enjoying retirement but Hudson has been homeless in the last few years. Together with gambling and drink problems, he is facing having to survive on a measly $250 incapacity payments and a pension of $500.

5 Paul Merson

via mirror.co.uk

One of the all-time Arsenal greats, Paul Merson enjoyed a once glittering career playing for the Gunners. With earnings of more than $40,000 in his prime he helped Arsenal achieve plenty of success on the field including the FA Cup and League title. Part of the title winning team under George Graham, he then had a brief spell at Aston Villa towards the end of his career. It is believed that his addiction to gambling, not to mention alcohol and drugs has cost him upwards of $5 million. This is coupled with having to sell off his property in the West Midlands and divorce settlements. This at one time left Merson almost on the streets but he has recently enjoyed a renaissance as an after dinner speaker and television pundit.

4 Brad Friedel

via independent.co.uk

Iconic American goalkeeper Brad Friedel was one of the best no.1's around, especially in his home nation. With successful spells at both Aston Villa, as well as Tottenham the former US no.1 was earning a fair wedge between the sticks. Yet, in 2011, Friedel had actually been declared completely bankrupt back in the United States. His football academy based in Lorain, Ohio was spiralling debts of around $7 million. In fact, most were not willing to subscribe thanks to its hefty $50,000 annual subscription which led to the banks repossessing his home.

3 Richard Rufus

via kentsportnews.com

During the 1990’s, Richard Rufus was an accomplished centre half playing in the back four for Charlton Athletic. Earning approximately $20,000 a week, Rufus was touted as the next great English centre back. But after retiring from the game in 2004 after numerous injuries, he turned his attention elsewhere. Rufus set out on an altogether different path, becoming a financial consultant. However, after a series of investments which did not pay off, as well as serious debts, Rufus filed for bankruptcy last year.

2 Kenny Sansom


Former Arsenal defender Kenny Sansom was a key figurehead in the 1980's for both club and country. Having made 86 appearances for England and appearing at the FIFA 1982 World Cup in Spain, Sansom enjoyed an impressive playing career. This took him to a wealth of clubs from Newcastle United to Queens Park Rangers, Coventry City and Everton. However, years of gambling and alcohol issues took its toll on Sansom and he became homeless for a short period of time. He is back on the right track though and is currently working as a television pundit.

1 Paul Gascoigne

via chroniclelive.co.uk

Arguably one of the finest talents to have ever come out of the British Isles, Paul Gascoigne was a unique footballer. With bundles of natural skill and oozing silky moves, the Geordie boy played for his hometown of Newcastle United before moving on to several highly prestigious clubs. This featured the Glasgow Rangers and Tottenham Hotspur, whilst he also played in Serie A for Roman giants Lazio. A joker at heart, Gazza was the jewel in many a football fan’s eye. But it was off the field where he encountered more than a few problems. Struggles with booze, drug addiction and depression have seen him owe the tax man more than $400,000.

More in Soccer