We all love rags-to-riches stories. It's reassuring to see individuals make the most of the cards they are dealt and propel themselves out of hardships and into affluence. If a player breaks onto the top tier of football in Europe, they run into a lot of wealth.
Footballers are paid tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds per week. On top of that, they rake in a lot of money through advertising campaigns and sponsorship deals. However, it is not enough to fill your coffers with gold, it is also necessary to make sure it is managed in a responsible manner.
What most people don't realize is that managing money is just as difficult as making it.
If one is not responsible with his assets and wealth, it can all go away faster than it was earned. This has happened to plenty of world-class footballers.
Without further ado, let's take a look at five legendary footballers who went from rich to broke.
#5 Celestine Babayaro
Nigerian football's golden generation won Olympic Gold in 1996 and Celestine Babayaro was a popular figure in the team. Babayaro had a pretty solid career and played for the likes of Anderlecht, Chelsea, Newcastle United and LA Galaxy.
He was part of Jose Mourinho's Chelsea side that knocked Manchester United off their perch in the Premier League in early 2000s. The left-back was earning as much £25,000 per week in wages at the peak of his powers.
However, Babayaro was declared bankrupt in 2011 after a failed move to MLS. He was taken to court by creditors who had loaned him large amounts of money.
#4 David James
David James is widely viewed as a Premier League legend. He held the record for most Premier League cleansheets (169) for a while until Petr Cech broke it. James played for some of the biggest clubs in England like Liverpool, West Ham United, Aston Villa and Manchester City.
Thanks to his ravishing good looks, James was also a model for top brands like Armani and H&M.
The former England number one had a high-profile career too and earned as much as £20 million over the course of it. However, James was declared bankrupt in 2014. He had a costly divorce settlement in 2005 and that was when things started to spiral out of control for the goalkeeper.
Due to his debts, James was ordered by the court to sell his sports memorabilia, DJ equipment and other valuable belongings. A retro Raleigh Chopper bike, the jersey he wore in England's 1-0 win over Argentina in the 2002 World Cup and his 1995/96 Liverpool kit were among the items he auctioned to settle his debts.
James has since served as player-manager for Indian Super League side Kerala Blasters and has also worked as a pundit with several studios.
#3 Paul Gascoigne
Paul Gascoigne was one of England's heroes during the 1990s. He was part of the national team that made it to the semi-finals of the 1990 FIFA World Cup and the 1996 Euros.
Gascogine struggled with depression and emotional issues in the latter stages of his career. This trickled into his life after retirement and he started being in the news for the wrong reasons. Gascoigne was arrested on various occasions for drunk driving, speeding and for being in possession of hard drugs.
He got into a plethora of unsavory incidents like harassing his ex-girlfriend, racially abusing his black bodyguard and was even arrested for sexual assault in 2018. During this time, he reportedly amassed a debt of £200,000. In 2016, he was handed a £42,000 bill on unpaid taxes but somehow managed to escape bankruptcy.
Ronaldinho was one of the best players in the world during the 2000s. He was poetry in motion on the football field and was incredibly successful for both club and country. Ronaldinho won the Ballon d'Or in 2005 and is remembered for always playing with a smile on his face.
He was one of the most entertaining and exciting players to have graced the game. However, he was not very disciplined away from the pitch. Ronaldinho had a very extravagant lifestyle and in 2018, it was reported that he had just £5 in his bank account.
Ronaldinho had also amassed a debt of £1.75 million by then. He had run into trouble with the Brazilian government for illegal construction in a protected area. Ronaldinho tried remortgaging his property to pay off the debts but it did not bear fruit. As a result, the government had his passport seized.
Ronaldinho then ended up spending some time in a Paraguayan jail in 2020 for trying to enter the country with fake documents.
#1 Diego Maradona
Diego Maradona is arguably the greatest footballer of all time. The legendary Argentinian was chosen as FIFA's Player of the Century in 2000. He almost single-handedly led La Albiceleste to a World Cup triumph in 1986. But he had a troubled life away from the ground.
In 1991, his drug usage led to him missing several games for Napoli and the club fined him $70,000. Maradona was accused of being involved with crime syndicate Camorra as well, and he got into trouble everywhere he went.
In 2009, Maradona filed for bankruptcy. This came after the Italian Tax Authority demanded the Argentinian pay around £42 million in unpaid taxes from his time as a Napoli player.
But things got slightly better for Maradona afterwards as he reportedly earned $2.7 million from managing Dubai-based club Al-Wasl FC in 2011-12.
Maradona's addiction and alcohol abuse continued and the legend of the game eventually passed away after suffering a cardiac arrest in November 2020.