Then and Now: Retired Players and their Strange Career Choices

January 02, 2018

- Grant Whittington

There’s no doubt about it; retirement is far easier for modern-day footballers than it was in previous generations. Not only do elite-level players now earn far more than their predecessors, but the huge range of contemporary media outlets now make punditry a viable career choice for any ex-pro.

Still, it’s fair to surmise that some players have ambitions and skill-sets that exist outside of football, which have in turn influenced the career decisions that they’ve taken after retirement.

In this post, we’ll explore some of the stranger career decisions taken by ex-pros and ask whether or not we saw them coming?

Lee Bowyer – An Escape to Paradise?

As a player, Lee Bowyer was tenacious, aggressive and occasionally downright nasty. Not only did he have an appalling disciplinary record both on and off the pitch, but he’s also famous for scrapping with teammate Kieron Dyer during his time at Newcastle.

These characteristics were hardly helped by a notoriously short temper, of course, but when finally hung up his boots in 2012 it seemed unlikely that he would disappear from the public eye.

Towards the end of his career, however, Bowyer would take a summer break every June to indulge his passion for carp fishing in the French village of Orconte. Incredibly, he chose to purchase the 12 acres of surrounding land at Étang de Bows when he was released by Ipswich, while taking over the management of the carp finish lake during the sun-kissed months of summer.

This tranquil and staid career choice seems at odds with Bowyer’s combative persona, as well as his seemingly innate ability to remain out of the spotlight. While he has since followed the more traditional approach of studying for his coaching badges (he was appointed the assistant manager of League One side Charlton last summer), his escape to the French countryside came as a massive surprise to us all.

Ramon Vega – Show me the Money

Ramon Vega, or the ‘wolf of White Hart Lane’ as he was affectionately known during his playing days, emerged as a cult hero during his time with Tottenham in the EPL. Genuinely combative and as strong as an ox, he made 64 league appearances in four years at Spurs and seemed certain to pursue a career in coaching after his retirement.

Vega has other ideas, however, as he instead became a founding member of the Duet financial group and made more than £15 million through asset management and private equity funding. Based in Mayfair, London, he became immensely successful in the financial services sector and has since looked to return to the sport in one guise or another.

In 2009, for example, he made an unsuccessful bid to purchase the Premier League side and FA Cup holders Portsmouth, while in the autumn of 2015 he announced that he was to stand as a candidate in the FIFA Presidential election.

Not only do these achievements highlight the ex-pro’s ambition and sense of purpose, but Vega’s unexpected success proves that there is vast and diverse world for players to explore once they have hung up their boots for the final time.

Tim Wiese

Tim Wiese achieved a stellar playing career, making over 300 Bundesliga appearances while earning genuine repute during his time at Werder Bremen. He also managed to earn six caps for the German national team in the face of some stern competition, earning a place in the World Cup squad that finished third in South Africa in 2010.

At six-feet four and blessed with pop-star good looks, there’s no doubt that Wiese had more options than most available to him when he entered retirements. Still, most fans were stunned in September 2014, when Wiese announced that he had been offered a development contracts by the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) body.

Having initially appeared as a guest time-keeper at a WWE live event in Frankfurt, he accepted a training invitation from the renowned ‘Triple H’ before making his professional wrestling debut in Munich in the late autumn of 2016.

While Wiese has yet to earn the success or notoriety of stars such as Kane or the Undertaker, he certainly looks the part and wins our vote for the most unusual career decision ever taken by a former professional footballer.

George Weah

The legendary striker and recipient of major individual honours that include African footballer of the year (x3), FIFA XI (x4) and the world famous Ballon d’Or, hung up his golden boots in 2003 for a career change into politics.

That’s right, the former AC Milan and Monaco man retired from football to become a politician. While it would certainly be a shock to see Wayne Rooney move from number 10 at Everton to Number 10 Downing Street, George Weah made that very leap and now is the President-elect of Liberia, having beaten his man  Joseph Boakai in the election.

Top image courtesy of Wikimedia

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