Considering the amount of sacrifice and discipline required to play at the highest level of professional football, it’s a wonder why players don’t crash and burn more often. While injuries and unwise transfers claim their fair share of careers, greed plays its part too. Players have been swayed by the glitz and glamour of the sport too often to ignore how easy it is to be led astray by too much money in too little time.
You may like to believe that the love of money isn’t the root of all evil but try explaining that to these 10 footballers whose greed ruined their career:
#10 Nicolas Anelka
Nicolas Anelka seemed like he was on the way to greatness when he scored 17 goals in 35 appearances for Arsenal during the 1998-99 season. Acquired from Paris Saint-Germain the year before, the Frenchman became one of the most sought-after young talents in Europe when he was just 20-years-old. He attracted the interest of Real Madrid who offered a whopping £22.3 million to the Gunners for the striker.
Arsene Wenger made the smart business move and sold Anelka who was already getting too big for his boots. Under the advice of his brother Claude Anelka, the 20-year-old made excessive wage demands at Arsenal before being shipped off. At Madrid, the striker flopped miserably and shunted back and forth between European clubs before reinventing himself late in his career at Chelsea.
#9 David Bentley
David Bentley had a serious gambling problem which the winger said started when he was just 14! Betting on up to a hundred events every day he put his money on the line for everything which included dogs, horses and even boring old Bingo. However, his addiction didn’t stop him from getting noticed, not initially at least. He started his promising career at Arsenal amidst all the gambling and played just nine times for the senior side.
However, after failing to break into the side, he moved to Blackburn Rovers soon after and gave his career a real kick-start.
Described as the new Beckham, Bentley earned himself a big move to Tottenham Hotspur but spent of his time there on loan with the likes of Birmingham, West Ham United and Rostov before he retired at the age of 29. He claimed he lost all interest in football which had become all about money and social media. Sound familiar?
#8 Matty Etherington
An unfamiliar name no doubt but Matty Etherington was a pretty good winger with a pretty lethal left foot. However, he is also one of many football players who struggled with a gambling addiction. Developing the habit when he was with West Ham, he lost an outrageous £1.5 million on bets. In fact, it was so bad he couldn’t wait for a game to finish before he could sneak off and check how the horses at the tracks had fared.
His debts racked up to £800,000 before his family found out and staged an intervention for him. The Hammers tried to do right by their player and went to the extent of loaning him £300,000 before he checked himself into a rehabilitation centre. The winger made a move to Stoke City at the same time, a change that would have a positive effect on the footballer. His father went so far as to thank the side for saving his son’s career.
#7 Michael Chopra
Indian origin Michael Chopra was a prolific goalscorer in the Championship with a career-best of 22 goals for Cardiff City in one season. However, he lost money gambling at the same rate at which he was scoring goals at the time. Like David Bentley, he started off young losing an astounding £30,000 pounds on the team bus when he was a teenager at Newcastle United.
His problem persisted throughout his career and there was a time when loan sharks showed up at the Ipswich Town training facilities demanding their money back. The incident proved to be the final straw and Chopra willingly entered a rehab in 2008 before doing another stint at the clinic in 2011.
When the forward moved to Sunderland in 2007 he claimed it was motivated by the large signing on bonus he was about to receive which could help repay his debts. Ipswich Town loaned him £250,000 to help him out of his financial difficulty as well.
#6 Jack Rodwell
Jack Rodwell could have been Everton’s great hometown hero but things didn’t quite turn out that way. A diehard Evertonian since childhood, he seemed to be living every kid’s fantasy of playing for his local club when he was lured away by Manchester City’s glittering oil money in 2012. While it may be argued that his career was as hampered by an injudicious move as it was a long spate of injuries, it cannot be denied that he made the big move too soon.
Signed by City to primarily meet their quota of homegrown players, Rodwell played just 16 games for the Citizens before moving further north to Sunderland for £10 million. Surprisingly, Sunderland have never won a game when Rodwell has started, a record that goes back 36 games, two short of an entire season!
However, the 25-year-old has sufficient time to bloom into a better player. After all, Gareth Bale hadn’t won his first 22 games with Spurs and how he’s winning Champions League trophies with Real Madrid.
#5 Paul Merson
Paul Merson is a pundit for Sky Sports and famously advised Hull City to give a chance to young English managers like Thierry Henry! While we know where Henry hails from, it sure tells you a little something about Merson himself. While it’s easy to laugh at the former Arsenal player now, there was a time when he was battling with a serious gambling addiction aided by his considerable wages in north London.
A Gunner from the start, his problems started early and he admitted his addiction to cocaine, alcohol and gambling in 1994. The FA did their best to help and instead of banning him, sent him to rehab for three months. His addiction reared its ugly head once again when he was at Aston Villa where he confessed he wanted to break his fingers so that he couldn’t place any more bets. Merson claimed that his excessive pay package made the money seem unreal and it only encouraged his demons.
#4 Emmanuel Adebayor
Arsene Wenger plucked the Togolese striker out of Monaco and helped him become a fan favourite in his first season at the Emirate. Emmanuel Adebayor, however, followed up his 30 goals with an indifferent second season when he was paid twice as much for dong half the work. Arrogant and brash, the forward felt he was too good for Arsenal and courted potential clubs quite openly.
In spite of claiming he wasn’t in it for the money. he did move to Manchester City for £25million. However, his impetuosity continued at the new club as he failed to show up for training and made outrageous demands while on the constant lookout for that big payout. A prolific goalscorer for much of his career, his progress was hindered by his arrogant self-belief.
Adebayor was hardly an intelligent player – clumsy and careless, he missed too often and was no good at heading the ball even though he was 6’4”. However, the former Arsenal player remained oblivious to his failings while the rest of the world caught on. The latest club to back out of a deal with him was Lyon who realised he was just a very expensive problem.
Nowadays, Adriano can be seen touting guns more often than scoring goals, but the Brazilian forward had the potential of being one of the best forwards of the 2000s. However, his instantaneous rise to fame and fortune took him down a very dark path. He came to notice when he was at Parma in Italy scoring 23 goals in 37 games in the league but developed into an elite striker only during his second stint at Inter Milan.
He scored an astonishing 38 goals in 78 appearances which made Inter give him a very lucrative five-year deal. His change in fortune, though, also marked the beginning of the end for Adriano.
The Brazilian went clubbing too often, performed poorly in games and even started showing up for practice hungover. He was sent on an unpaid leave by Massimo Moratti and his contract was finally rescinded in 2009.
Adriano can now most often be seen in his favela in Rio where he hangs out with local gang members. Unfortunately for the forward, the death of his father and his unexpected riches proved to be too much for him to handle.
#2 Paul Gascoigne
This list would be incomplete without the early demise of Gazza’s career. His spectacular technical ability made him a special talent and one of England’s brightest stars of the 1990s. The fans at home adored the midfielder for his shenanigans and emotional nature.
His brash and cheeky personality both on and off the pitch was so irresistible that his song ‘Fog on the Tyne’ reached the number two spot on UK’s Top 40 charts – an honour that far exceeded the quality of the song.
However, Gascoigne took a turn for the worst much like a Shakespearean tragic hero thanks to his alcoholism which started in 1998. His ludicrous wages at Tottenham fuelled his alcohol and drug abuse. Gascoigne famously brought beer and chicken to serial killer Raoul Moat when he was high on cocaine and got into fights while shouting racial slurs. Gazza announced his intent to steer clear of alcohol in 2017 and has checked into rehab once again.
#1 George Best
No football player ever enjoyed his alcohol quite like George Best but his habit tragically led to his untimely death at the age of 59 in 2005. Born in Belfast, Best was extraordinarily gifted and became a part of the Holy Trinity at Manchester United alongside Denis Law and Sir Bobby Charlton.
However, his abilities were always overshadowed by his increasing alcoholism and excessive riches which dogged him for the entirety of his playing career. Getting drunk at clubs and creating a scene had become a norm for the Irishman.
In 1969, Best announced that he had given up drinking and women but that just lasted 20 minutes. His love for alcohol led to many altercations with law enforcement, arrests and eventually the loss of his life when his body rejected a liver transplant. Even though he had lost everything on booze, women and fast cars, his death was mourned by the entire football world.