Gradually, players are getting involved on an ownership level to continue their involvement with the sport. While there have been instances of former players doing it such as Dave Whelan, who still owns Wigan Athletic, the trend of top players doing the same is getting more pronounced now. Now, these players could be minority owners in terms of investment yet they serve as the faces of the club while the actual financial muscle can come from actual businessmen. However, the desire to get involved in the ownership of a club is a new trend.
Here are 5 such top players or group of players who own football clubs at the moment.
David Beckham – Miami MLS
David Beckham’s move to the United States in 2007 attracted a lot of eyeballs as many regarded the main motive to be money. A lesser-known fact about the deal is that the popular Englishman was given a chance to buy a team outside New York for $25 million. Beckham duly exercised the option in 2014. Thus, Miami MLS team came to be founded and is all set to be a part of the latest expansion of Major League Soccer. After a few hiccups, Beckham’s investment group, consisting of top businessmen, is very close to starting the team in the next two years.
The new team is yet to get a name and the stadium is yet to be built. However, just like the way he kick-started the trend of top players moving across the Atlantic, Beckham is one of the first players to begin the new trend of high-profile players buying football clubs.
Didier Drogba – Phoenix Rising
In football, player-manager is a term known to many. This role is still performed by players in lower leagues across the world. However, Didier Drogba probably is the first to become a player-owner when he signed for Phoenix Rising this year. One of the greatest Chelsea and African player of all time, Drogba explained his decision to become a player owner as “To own a team and be a player at the same time is unusual but it’s going to be very exciting. It’s a good transition because I want to carry on playing but I’m almost 40 and it’s important for me to prepare for my later career.”
The team plays in the United Soccer League, the country’s second division. Drogba along with Phoenix’s MLS expansion franchise ownership group is aiming at getting the team into the top division in one of the upcoming expansion plans. Thus, Drogba not only co-owns a football club but also made history by becoming arguably the first-ever player owner in football history.
A part of the Class of 92 – Salford City
Away from the United States, a part of the famed Manchester United Class of 92 own a club named Salford City in the lower leagues of England since 2014. Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and brothers Gary and Phil Neville bought the non-league club and control its operations. The club languished in the eighth division of English football when these United legends took over. However, under their guidance and appointments, the Ammies won back-to-back promotions between 2014 to 2016. It would have been three on the bounce but the team lost in the play-off semi-final in the just concluded season.
Currently, Salford City are in the sixth division and are set to go full-time from the upcoming season with the staff and players signings full-time contracts. Further, a youth team has been set up as well. There is no doubt that the club’s illustrious owners will do their best to get the club up very soon.
Paolo Maldini – Miami FC
While everyone was expecting Beckham to bring football to Miami, AC Milan and Italy legend Paolo Maldini sneaked ahead to own a team in Miami. He tied up with TV rights businessman Riccardo Silva to form Miami FC in the North American Soccer League (NASL), the second division in the United States. Furthermore, Maldini convinced his long-time team-mate and another footballing legend Alessandro Nesta to become the manager. The result was such that Miami FC won the Spring season of the NASL this year.
The 5-time Champions League winner said, “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,” as his reason to choose Miami. Maldini has already contributed to the development of football in Miami with his reputation and contacts as was seen in Nesta’s appointment and acquiring popular kit-maker Macron for Miami FC.
Demba Ba’s consortium – San Diego NASL
The most recent one among the list, Demba Ba along with Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sow are the owners of an NASL expansion club in San Diego. The club is expected to compete in the 2018 season and a team name is yet to be announced. Former Chelsea and Newcastle forward Demba Ba, who currently plays for Shanghai Shenhua, owns 35% of the club, making him the lead owner. On combining with the stakes controlled by the rest of the players, the consortium is the majority owners of the new team.
Eden Hazard was delighted with the announcement of the ownership deal and said,“We can’t wait to get started and win some games.” The University of San Diego will serve as their home base till a new stadium is built.
“San Diego is a beautiful place and the love and passion the people have for soccer made this an easy choice for us. My friends and I are honoured to turn this dream into a reality,” the Belgian superstar added.