“I think in the football world we sometimes look at outside education and development as a ‘back-up plan’, something that is only really needed if we don’t make it big, or if careers are cut short. However, I think we should be looking at this from another angle entirely - even the greatest talents in the world should be expanding their horizons beyond the pitch.
The last match as a professional footballer is one that will be played by all of us, and it’s a daunting thought – no matter how much you have achieved in your career. One day the crowds are going to fall away, you won’t be as relevant as you once were, and if you’ve built your whole life around the game, then you really won’t have anything left.
When I hung up my boots, I knew that I would always look back on my career with a sense of pride, but this positive outlook came from knowing that I had something else to look forward to. I was already a business owner; I had clients to think about and work to be done and I jumped straight into my new life at Imperium Family Office. If I didn’t have this new direction to keep me busy, I would have been lost.
There’s a mentality that to be the best you have to give everything to football, and while I agree that you have to be dedicated – it shouldn’t stop you from investing in other aspects of your life. Part of the job is taking time out to recover physically, why not take these hours and put them to good use?
I used mine to study part-time, and over a period of ten years I had achieved both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree – while still committing myself fully to my career as a player. It actually had a positive effect on my game, as I started to appreciate every training session and match. I enjoyed it so much more.
When I finished my studies in 2015, I started thinking, what next? I began looking for ways in which I could put my education into practice. I researched the finance patterns for players after retirement and realised just how many were going bankrupt just a few years after finishing their careers, and it struck me that this could be my new purpose. I could help other athletes to understand and improve their financial situations and navigate this new stage of life.
I spoke to bankers, investors and companies from all over the world as I honed my idea into a reality, and that’s how I came in contact with my current partners. They had just started up the Imperium Family Office business, and we realised that the issues they were helping their clients with, weren’t so different from those faced by many footballers. And so I joined them, bringing my network and experience with me.
I do say experience, because although it is my first job in the finance sector, I now know that there is a wealth of skills to be learned on the pitch that are invaluable to the world outside. Every organisation needs team players - and that runs in our blood.
As players we are conditioned to step up to the task at hand no matter what. You lose a game? That’s unfortunate, but there’s another one on the horizon that demands your attention. You have to travel, recover, train, stay healthy; things move so fast, but you can’t let yourself fall behind. People are constantly judging you, but you have to put all of that to the side and concentrate on being the best you can be week in and week out. I’ve been told that I have a great business attitude because I’m constantly pushing forwards – but I didn’t learn that in an office, I learned it on the pitch. All players have this potential.
The thing is though, you can only apply it to something that you are passionate about. I realise that my interest in the world of finance and economy isn’t shared by everyone. So, if I could give one piece of advice to any player it would be to find a passion outside of football - find yourself a new team that you want to be part of.
There are so many more opportunities for education and development available to you today: take them. Discover other passions, meet people with different life perspectives and get ready to embrace life outside of football – it could be a wonderful next step, as long as you’re ready to take it!”