The life of a professional footballer is short. Most footballers who play in top tiers of Europe tend to start their career by the end of their teenage years and their careers fizzle out by the time they hit the mid-30s.
Once their playing careers come to end, these players invest their money and time elsewhere. Some become television pundits and columnists, others go into coaching and few others venture into the business world like Cristiano Ronaldo who owns a clothing brand or Mathieu Flamini who has a biochemical company. Most players do the groundwork for their post-playing careers even before retirement.
As already stated, footballers find different avenues to invest their money and one way is to invest their money in a football club. So here is a list of six football clubs you probably haven’t heard of but is owned by superstars that you’ve definitely heard of.
6 Phoenix Rising – Didier Drogba
Phoenix Rising is an American club playing in the second tier the US football pyramid and it was founded in 2014 as Arizona United Soccer Club. In 2016, after a change in ownership, the club was rebranded Phoenix Rising FC.
On April 12, 2017; Phoenix signed Chelsea and Ivory Coast legend Didier Drogba on a free transfer. The Ivorian also purchased an ownership stake in the Arizona based club and thus became the first ever player-owner in football history.
Among the other notable owners are baseball star Brandon McCarthy, DJ and record producer, Diplo and songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Pete Wentz.
After a fantastic 2018 season in which they finished third in the Western Conference Standings just two points behind the table toppers, Phoenix Rising will now compete in the conference playoffs.
Former England, Chelsea and Manchester City winger Shaun Wright-Phillips played for Phoenix Rising in 2017.
5 Salford City – Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Nicky Butt
Salford City is a football club based in Salford, Great Manchester and in 2014, a part of Manchester United’s famous Class of 92 completed a takeover of the club when they were playing in Premier League Division North which is the seventh division in England.
In September 2014, the ownership team comprising of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Nicky Butt agreed to sell a 50% stake in the club to Singapore based billionaire Peter Lim who also owns La Liga club Valencia. The remaining 50% was split equally between Giggs, Scholes, Butt and the Neville brothers.
Since the takeover, Salford City has earned two promotions and are currently playing in England’s fifth division, National League North. The team is currently top of the table and if they finish the season on top, then they will gain promotion to EFL League Two.
Giggs previously stated that the aim is to bring Salford City to the Championship in fifteen years and if they move forward at the current pace, then that target should be met with time to spare.
4 Paolo Maldini – Miami FC
Paolo Maldini is currently serving as sporting strategy & development director for Milan and is also the co-owner of American second division club Miami FC.
Maldini owns 50% of the club and the rest is owned by Italian businessman Riccardo Silva who is also the president of the club.
“Miami has been my second home for 15 years, so I look forward to spending more and more time here as co-owner of Miami FC, giving my enthusiastic contribution for its success” – Maldini
Miami played its first season in 2016 with Maldini’s former Milan teammate Alessandro Nesta as the manager. In addition, Italian sportswear brand, Macron, signed as the club’s kit suppliers on a three years deal.
In 2017, Miami won the Spring and Fall NASL season but after the outright cancellation of the 2018 NASL season, the club is in a limbo. However, in January 2018, Miami FC announced the creation of Miami FC 2 in the National Premier Soccer League and many of the players from Miami FC were transferred to Miami FC 2.
It remains to be seen what the future holds for Maldini’s club.
3 San Diego 1904 – Eden Hazard, Demba Ba, Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sow
San Diego 1904 is another club based in the United States owned by football stars. Founded in June 2017 by current stars Demba Ba, Eden Hazard, Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sow, the club was supposed to start activities in 2018 in the North American Soccer League.
However, due to the cancellation of NASL, San Diego attempted to join the United Soccer League in 2019 but an agreement couldn’t be reached in time. San Diego was later announced as the first member of a planned Division III league, National Independent Soccer Association.
The club will play its home games temporarily in University of San Diego’s Torero Stadium but the plan is to build a new stadium in Oceanside, approximately 40 miles north of downtown San Diego.
Demba Ba has labelled San Diego as the ‘project of their life’.
“One of our goals is to sign players who have a strong passion for the game, who are competitive and love to win. All my life as a football player I lived with competition and competition is going to be good for us and for San Diego.”
Eden Hazard also has great hopes on the San Diego project.
“We see great things for this club and for soccer in San Diego. It’s a tremendous honour be a part of this club and to give San Diego what it deserves – professional football.”
2 Real Valladolid – Ronaldo
Real Valladolid earned promotion to the La Liga at the end of the 2017/18 season after four years. On September 3, 2018, it was announced that former Brazil international Ronaldo Nazario became the majority shareholder after purchasing 51% controlling stake of the club.
“The arrival of Ronaldo puts Real Valladolid on the map and will allow the club to take a leap in quality,” said president Carlos Suarez.
Ronaldo played in the La Liga for Barcelona and Real Madrid, and speaking at a news conference after the takeover he said:
“I have gone through many stages in my training in football to prepare. Football is a passion. This new management will be defined by four words: competitiveness, transparency, revolution and social.”
Ronaldo’s new team is currently seventh in the league table with 12 points from eight games and is only four points behind table-toppers Sevilla.
Prior to owning Valladolid, Ronaldo had a minority stake in NASL club Fort Lauderdale Strikers which was dissolved in 2016.
1 Inter Miami CF – David Beckham
David Beckham’s move to the MLS in 2007 was a landmark moment in the history of the league as it thrust the relatively unknown league into the limelight. As a part of his transfer to LA Galaxy, there was an agreement which allowed Beckham to own an MLS expansion team at a discounted franchise fee.
In 2014, Beckham exercised his option to buy an MLS expansion team for $25m. The initial plan was to start playing in 2016 or 2017 but it was pushed to 2020 due to delay in getting a stadium deal completed. Beckham’s business partner Simon Fuller and five other businessmen also have stakes in the club.
The team’s official name is Internacional de Futbol Miami but is popularly known as Inter Miami. The club intends to build a new stadium the location of which is still to be finalised.
Although the club is yet to start its operation, a host of current superstars including Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have been linked with a future move to the Miami based club. Hopefully, that happens and we get to see Ronaldo and Messi share the field as teammates week in week out.