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The life of a professional footballer is a blessed one. They play the sport they love, get paid millions to do so, and if they’re good enough, get the opportunity to compete for the biggest honours in the game. But it’s also a short career that often ends at a time when many others outside the game are hitting a peak in their working life. Suddenly, a player goes from training with their teammates every day of the week to having nothing to keep them busy.
Yes, to us mere mortals, having nothing to do and enough money to not have to worry about it sounds like the stuff of dreams. But for many players, moving into retirement is tough going. Of course, there are the Lampards and Gerrards that head straight into management or the Ferdinands and Shearers who try their hand at punditry. But what about those players who want nothing to do with football? What’s left for them to do?
Well, if you’re Arjan de Zeeuw, you become a detective. And yes, that really did happen. The former Wigan and Portsmouth centre-back made the move into police work once he finished his footballing career. Reading about it got us thinking about what potential career moves the biggest stars of the game might make when they call time on their football career. And this is what we came up with.
Luis Suarez – dog whisperer
Luis Suarez, the man who made his name at Ajax and who we affectionately refer to as Bitey Mc Biteface, has that certain quality that could see him become one of the world’s top dog trainers. Forget all that positive reinforcement stuff that Victoria Stilwell goes on about. We’re talking top dog techniques here like that guy Cesar Rome or Milan or whatever his name is.
Your dog giving you problems? Luis comes to your house with his full camera crew and takes full control of the situation as only he knows how. In the time it takes you to say ‘what the hell is he doing?’ everyone’s favourite Uruguayan is on all fours baring his teeth at your dog. He then trains you in his one-of-a-kind technique before riding off into the sunset a hero. Might not actually happen but we really hope it does.
Pepe – professional poker player
Now, before you go off on one about how you heard Pepe once played in some charity poker match, we’re talking about professional poker. You know, World Series of Poker stuff. So why would we like to see the most aggressive player in the history of football sitting at a poker table? Well, the mental side of poker strategy requires practice and dedication and we know that Pepe is 100% dedicated. But it’s also a game that requires that you control your emotions – you don’t want to ruin your chances of bluffing – and we’d love to see Pepe trying to rein himself in.
Imagine Pepe sitting on what he thinks is a great hand and trying to control his temper when his opponent reveals a straight flush. We can see the veins bulging at his temples already as he stands up and flips the table (an impressive feat in itself) scattering chips everywhere. Security rushes in only for Pepe to rip up the roulette wheel and launch it across the casino. This has a certain ring of truth to it if we’re completely honest.
Lionel Messi – pro-wrestler
No, don’t dismiss this one out of hand, it could actually work. His ring name would be La Pulga Atomica or The Atomic Flea, and his signature move would be a swift kick to the shins. He’d be a sensation in the ring and would be the perennial underdog – the mirror opposite of his status on the football pitch.
We can see it now. La Pulga Atomica at Wrestlemania. He’s in the ring against John Cena and perhaps even has one of those masks on. He quickly takes out both of Cena’s shins before putting him in a sleeper hold using his thighs. He becomes world champion of wrestling achieving the one thing that he never could on the football pitch – winning a world title. Trust us, this is definitely going to happen.
Mario Balotelli – politician
The election results are in and Mr Mario Balotelli, leader of the newly formed Italian political party Razionale has won by a landslide, making him the new president of Italy. We’re not even sure if that’s how Italian politics works but wouldn’t it be a grand thing to see the world’s best negotiator and all-around sensible guy take control of his country.
Mario sits at the G8 summit table speaking eloquently of his nation’s desires to make supercars the cars of the people and scooter diving a national sport. File this one under ‘it will never ever happen, definitely not, no, not a chance’.
Neymar – counsellor
He’s been through a lot you know. Currently being held for ransom by a very mean Parisian club, Brazil’s favourite son since the last guy that scored some goals has had his fair share of troubling times in his short life. Troubling times that he could draw inspiration from in his post-footy career as a counsellor.
Remember when he wasn’t allowed to quit his job at Barcelona? Or that time he played so badly for the national team that he was reduced to crocodile tears? Could a career helping others help this young man forget the trials and tribulations of being paid handsomely and commanding record-breaking transfer fees? We think it might, and look forward to his motivational book when it comes out.
In all seriousness, no really, we are actually being serious now, footballers don’t know what to do with themselves when they retire. For those with superstar status like the guys we mentioned above, the transition is often an easy one. They move into media or continue to appear in the limelight and are constantly offered work. But for guys like Arjan de Zeeuw, it’s not quite so easy. What do you honestly think James Milner will do when he retires? Bad example, Milner will likely never retire, but what about the likes of Leighton Baines or Eric Dier? Will poker and golf be enough for these guys or will they take de Zeeuw’s path and opt for a completely new career?