Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic, Sturridge: Nine players who started businesses while playing

  • Kobe Tong

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Daniel Sturridge is more than just a talented footballer.

Football and business

While certain pundits and fans might criticise players for daring to have interests away from the beautiful game, it's becoming far more accepted for athletes to branch out into different areas.

There are countless worrying case studies of players who have struggled with the transition from their playing careers to retirement, so getting ahead of the game can be a massive advantage.

Instead of moving straight from the chaotic buzz of weekly football to having more free time than can possibly be healthy, increasing amounts of players are bridging that gap with other ventures.

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Sturridge's business interests

And Sturridge is clearly somebody who subscribes to that theory because the former Chelsea and Liverpool player has been working hard away from the pitch as well as on it in recent years.

During an appearance on the High Performance Podcast, Sturridge championed players who are investing time into other passions and spoke about his own journey into the world of business.

The 31-year-old set up the music label Dudley Road Records in 2017 and has also channelled his mother's cooking into a range of sauces called Sturr Crazy.

Sturridge on balancing business and football

"I'm generally an artsy person," Sturridge explained. "My mum's an unbelievable chef, which is why we have the sauce. I have a record label, which I don't even run myself, so it wasn't taking up any of my time.

"The misconception is: you have to be just a footballer or just an athlete or just a boxer. It's wrong. It really is. You have to have things that keep you mentally engaged and keep you sharp and have you thinking.

"When you're at football, the day before a game, you lock in. Your phone's not on. You're not even responding to people. You do not disturb. You're locked in. Game day, you're locked in.

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Read more: The High Performance Podcast hub

"But throughout the week, you're at training. You wake up maybe 8:30, you're in at 10:00, you train and get home by 14:00. I've got eight hours to play with. Should I sit on Call of Duty for eight hours?

"Do you want me on the couch watching television or do you want me doing something that can potentially earn me money and also, I'm passionate about and will set me up so that when I retire, it's a seamless transition?"

It really is great to see that Sturridge is putting time and energy behind some of his passions away from football and we're happy to report that the former England international is by no means alone.

In fact, some of the biggest names in the beautiful game are amongst those to dip into the world of business with everything from wine, mobile games, fragrances and fashion being explored.

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Footballers who started businesses

As such, we've highlighted eight footballers who in addition to Sturridge who have mixed their career in football with business endeavours.

Oh, and we're talking about players who were involved in their businesses while still playing football, so Louis Saha and AsixStars as well as David Beckham and Haig Club are off the table here.

Disclaimers aside, though, be sure to check out the entrepreneurial players down below:

1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The legendary Swede has his finger in a number of business pies: launching his own sportswear brand A-Z, mobile game 'Zlatan Legends' and even his own toiletry range called 'Zlatan Ibrahimovic Parfums'.

2. Jesse Lingard

When he's not tearing up the Premier League with Manchester United or West Ham United, Lingard is growing his brand and influence with his official clothing brand: JLINGZ.

Bizarrely, Lingard's endeavour into the fashion industry even brought the ire of Roy Keane, who said in 2018: “I think football should be your number one priority. People say you should have other stuff outside of football but I don’t think you should."

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3. Cristiano Ronaldo

While we'd be remiss not to mention Ronaldo's hotel empire, we'd be lying if we said anything other than 'CR7' was at the centre of the Ballon d'Or winner's business empire.

With everything from sportswear to shoes and fragrances to underwear on the shelves, there's plenty of Ronaldo merchandise to get your hands on when you're not staying at the 48-room Pestana CR7.

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4. Gerard Pique

Pique is an executive of the investment firm that he founded with his friends in 2017, Kosmos Holdings, which has even attracted backing from Lionel Messi and helped him to purchase FC Andorra.

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5. Rio Ferdinand

Where do we begin? The umbrella brand of '#5' encompasses everything from fashion to journalism with Ferdinand releasing his first magazine in 2009, which has gone on to feature the likes of Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube.

Ferdinand also took a step into the world of music by kickstarting White Chalk Music Label in 2005 and tried his hand at becoming a restaurateur with an Italian eatery in Manchester called Rosso Restaurant.

6. Joleon Lescott

In the midst of winning the Premier League title with Manchester City, Lescott launched his own menswear company called Lescott Stewart that even received support from rappers 50 Cent and Wretch32.

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7. Ryan Bertrand

In 2015, the Southampton defender cofounded a brokerage called Silicon Markets to help at-home traders and also got behind a short-lived emoji app called FootiEmoji with Jose Fonte and John Terry. 

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8. Andres Iniesta

Bodega Iniesta is a business close to the heart of the Barcelona legend who has helped his family with their vineyard since his younger years with the winery expanding to produce one million bottles in 2015.

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9. Mathieu Flamini

Ah, the grandaddy of footballers in business. Flamini founded GF Biochemicals with business partner Pasquale Granata in 2008 to produce technology to create sustainable alternatives to oil-based products.

Goal cites online estimates that pin Flamini's net worth at €20 million, contrary to reports that he owns billions, while the Frenchman also started an online magazine called: The BioJournal.

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Fair play, fair play

So, the next time that certain pundits or fans are frothing at the mouth that footballers should be spending every minute of every day thinking about football, just remember these players.

Besides, we don't know about you, but it's pretty hard to argue that business endeavours have done much damage to the remarkable careers of players like Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic.

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