10 Most Financially Irresponsible Footballers of All Time

Mohamed Al-Hendy@Mo_HendyCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2012

10 Most Financially Irresponsible Footballers of All Time

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    Footballers make a lot of money.

    What they do with that money, however, varies greatly from one player to another.

    Some footballers go on to do remarkable things with the salaries they receive, such as opening charities, helping fund health and education programs, and making a change in the world.

    Other footballers are less noble, choosing to spend their money on more materialistic goods, such as starting up their own personal car collection.

    We're not here to judge who's spending his money the right way or the wrong way. However, there are footballers who, for various reasons, badly mishandle their finances to the point that they're in serious financial trouble at the end of their respective careers.

    Those guys, we're less inclined to feel sorry for, and so we're here to name and shame the 10 most financially irresponsible footballers of all time.

Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Cristiano Ronaldo is rich, and he knows it.

    To be fair to the Real Madrid star, he's not in any danger of going bankrupt any time soon as far as we know.

    He's one of the world's best recognized names, and reportedly makes around $40 million in salary and endorsements per year.

    When you're that rich, financial accountability isn't likely to be very high on your priorities.

    Still, Ronaldo's ridiculous spending on cars, homes, as well as £8,000 a month on clothes is surely a bit irresponsible. Ronaldo spends a lot of time talking about how he wants to be a role model for his son—spending £8,000 a month on clothes surely won't help that cause.

    Without getting too caught up in Ronaldo's personal life, it's safe to say that even with his enormous amount of wealth, he has been rather irresponsible with his expenditures.


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    Pele spent 18 magnificent years with Brazilian club Santos before entering semi-retirement in 1972.

    However, in 1975, reportedly due to financial troubles, Pele decided to come out of semi-retirement to play with the NASL's New York Cosmos, before retiring for good in 1977.

    What I can't figure out is how Pele managed to get himself into financial trouble in spite of numerous international tours, World Cups and endorsement deals in his career.

    Even though football was a much more fiscally conservative game back in Pele's time, surely money must've been coming at him from all angles, even prior to his move to the New York Cosmos.

    In addition to his financial troubles at the end of his time with Santos, Pele was also financially irresponsible as Brazil's Minister of Sport in the 1990s.

    He reportedly made gambling part of football's income, and, as a result, money laundering and corruption became more widespread within the Brazilian FA.

    Seeing the way Pele acts and carries himself today, I can't say I'm too surprised.

Mario Balotelli

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    It seems Mario Balotelli is always losing money.

    Earlier this Wednesday, he was fined a week's wages for breaking club curfew, and back in December he reportedly spent £55,000 to stay at the Manchester City Hotel for eight weeks while repairs were being made to his home.

    Those repairs reportedly cost him £400,000.

    Then last year, Balotelli reportedly gave a homeless man £1,000 after winning £25,000 at a casino that same day. He followed that act of bizarre charity with another one this past Christmas, as he surprised drinkers at a local pub with a £1,000 bar tab.

    And sadly, that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Balotelli's fines.

    With the money he earns at Manchester City, Balotelli earns enough money to afford all the fines he receives, but he sure would have a lot more money to use on his bizarre acts of charity if he'd just accumulate fewer fines.

Dietmar Hamann

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    Dietmar Hamann had a solid career with the likes of Bayern Munich, Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester City before retiring permanently at the end of the 2010-11 season.

    Recently, Hamann admitted that he suffered from serious gambling problems toward the end of his career, explaining that there was one night where he managed to blow £200,000 all at once.

    Hamann's problems first came to light when it was reported that he had £600,000 in unpaid debt, and that he could be taken to court over the issue.

    Luckily, Hamann has stated he has found happiness once again, and that with his happiness, his gambling problems have disappeared.

Obafemi Martins

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    Remember Obafemi Martins? This was the guy who looked set to become a truly world-class striker in his time with Inter Milan and Newcastle. He seemed to be a simple, modest guy who really enjoyed scoring goals and was rarely ever in the media.

    But apparently there was more to Martins than met the eye.

    According to the Daily Mail, in his time with Newcastle, Martins "regularly withdrew £40,000 at weekends and a further £25,000 the following Monday" while on a £75,000-a-week salary. 

    That wasn't where it stopped.

    Apparently, he and his agent were so inept, that when Martins first arrived at Newcastle, he had "not been paid a penny for his image rights on Newcastle United shirts and mugs," and "had received nothing from his sponsorship deals and could not even find the contracts he had originally signed."

    Talk about a train wreck. 

    NVA Management offered to step in to manage every aspect of Martins' life in exchange for a one-off fee of £300,000 and 20 percent of all sponsorship money earned. And Martins agreed, only to once again show his financial irresponsibility by failing to pay the £300,000 fee.

    Even with his financial problems, Martins insisted on owning several fast cars, including a top-of-the-class £85,000 Porsche Cayenne 4x4, and spent his money on a lifestyle of luxurious penthouse homes and fine dining. 

    He owned a large multi-million pound home in the exclusive footballers' enclave of Darras Hall, near Ponteland, Northumbria, and rented an opulent flat overlooking Newcastle upon Tyne's trendy Quayside.

    Maybe Martins' financial problems were what convinced him to make ill-fated transfers to Germany and then Russia, where he now frequently warms the bench for Rubin Kazan.

Diego Maradona

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    In terms of quantifiable financial debt, Diego Maradona has everyone on this list beat.

    According to Italian news agency Ansa (via BBC News), Maradona has a €37 million tax debt that he has yet to pay off from his playing days in Napoli.

    Maradona has blamed the tax debt, according to Italian sports daily Corriere dello Sport, "on 'some Napoli director' who failed to promptly inform the player—who had already left Italy—about the original tax bill."

    He also urged Italian lawmakers to pass a bill “that would restore serenity and justice to me and all those like me, who are not few, who find themselves in the same conditions.”

    Until then, Maradona says he has no plans of visiting Italy, where he's already had his earrings and Rolex watches confiscated by government officials.

    As long as he is outside of Italy though, all is well for Maradona. He's current manager of Al Wasl in the UAE Pro League, and has his team sitting respectably in fifth place in the table.

Paul Gascoigne

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    Throughout his football career, and especially after it, Paul Gascoigne has had at least 99 problems, and financial irresponsibility was most definitely one.

    Gascoigne's financial problems largely stemmed from his other bad habits. Back in 2006, Gascoigne reportedly lost thousands of pounds gambling in blackjack, while simultaneously chain-smoking 100 cigarettes and downing glass after glass of Cristal Champagne.

    You'd think someone would've stepped in at some point to stop the madness.

    In 2008, Gascoigne admitted to spending £2,000 a day on cocaine. Somewhat comically, it is reported that "he was sorting out 35 lines but would only take his favourite line numbers 16 and 19. Then he was throwing the rest away, which must have been costing him thousands."

    Just crazy. The list of incidents goes on and on.

    The good news, however, is that Gascoigne got through 2011 relatively incident-free, and the same applies for 2012. Here's hoping he can continue to stay clean and addiction-free after so many years of struggling.

Paul Merson

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    Paul Merson was a playmaking midfielder who made his name as an Arsenal legend before moving on to spells with Middlesborough, Aston Villa, Portsmouth and Walsall.

    Following his playing career, Merson, like Gascoigne, struggled to fill the gap in his life left by football, and turned to gambling.

    At one point, Merson's gambling troubles got so bad that he was forced to leave his "£300,000 flat and move back into his parents' ex-council house after failing to pay his mortgage."

    And that, as with Gascoigne, was just one of his many problems. Merson reportedly blew £7 million because of his addictions and maintenance settlements with his ex-wives prior to 2008, and at one point couldn't even make payments on his £40,000 Range Rover.

    Later in 2008, Merson confessed that all his addictions and financial problems led him to the brink of suicide.

    Luckily, this past February, Merson appeared a changed man as a guest speaker at a sports dinner he attended. He admitted to have a drink "now and again," but claims his gambling days are completely behind him.


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    Believed by many to be the best footballer in the history of football, it's a shame Garrincha could never shake off his drinking and financial problems to perform at his highest possible level.

    Garrincha won the 1958 and 1962 World Cups with Brazil, but off the field—during his best years and afterwards—Garrincha's personal life was a mess.

    His father was heavy drinker, and he inherited this habit from his father, killing his mother-in-law as a result of drunk-driving, as well as running over and seriously injuring a 10-year-old boy.

    Financially, Garrincha’s naivety with money left him in severe financial problems, as was tricked into signing blank contracts where directors would pay him minimum wage.

    Garrincha passed away due to cirrhosis of the liver in 1983, bringing an end to the unhappy and troubled life of Garrincha's post-football career.

George Best

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    "I spent 90% of my money on women, drink and fast cars. The rest I wasted."

    There are plenty of famous George Best quotes out there, but said quote probably best exemplifies the life of George Best.

    Best made an excellent start to life with Manchester United, but after two nightclubs in Manchester the late 1960s, his decline began. He developed problems with gambling, womanizing and alcoholism, and would never reach the heights he reached with United in his early years with the club.

    There is a famous story about when a waiter delivering champagne to Best's hotel room saw thousands of pounds of casino winnings and the current Miss World both arranged tastefully on the bed.

    The scene prompted the legendary question: "Mr Best, where did it all go wrong?"

    Best's final message, via News of the World, was "Don't die like me"—a warning to footballers and non-footballers alike to avoid the path of destruction which likely prematurely ended Best's life on November 25, 2005.


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