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Are football stars also successful entrepreneurs?


Careers often start to take off in the mid-30s. For professional footballers, however, it is usually over. And then? Jobs as a coach or manager are rare – which is why many ex-professionals have even greater hopes for the world of business.

Antje Erhard

They have been disciplined, persistent and focused for years. But when it comes to money, many football professionals have lost their discipline and perseverance: Oliver Bierhoff has analyzed that one in eight professional footballers is broke after their active career. The former national player now advises footballers on investments.

It is noticeable that many wealthy competitive athletes “receive a lot of money relatively early on, then perhaps do not fully understand the value, how difficult it is to earn this money, and sometimes build up a cost structure,” says the ex-national player and former DFB manager in an interview with ARD Finance DepartmentSome people find it difficult to switch back if they no longer have an income.

Focused on sports?

But many of them don't just lack the money to build a professional life after sport. According to Markus Elsässer, who has also advised players together with former national player Simon Rolfes, many professionals are also not prepared for life after sport: “Professional athletes are not used to acting independently.”

They are just disciplined, as if they were in a corset, and run according to instructions. Those around them are purely focused on the sport – not on the time afterwards. “Because you hope that you will have so much money that you won't have anything else to do.” But that is a fallacy.

The network and the reputation help

That's why professionals need a perspective from when others are really getting started in their careers: in their mid-30s. This has to be planned well in advance, says Jürgen Molnar, capital market expert at RoboMarkets. As a former professional footballer, he himself used to play for Kaiserslautern, among other teams.

Molnar planned the end of his career early on, together with his advisors and his last club – Rot Weiß Frankfurt at the time: “They brought me in with the prospect of a career in the stock market.” As a trained banker, this was an ideal entry point for the former professional. From 1988 to 2011, Jürgen Molnar worked on the trading floor of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. “It was a condition of my joining the club that the doors would be opened for me.”

Open doors, high profile, usually a good image, and the corresponding capital from top players – isn't it relatively easy to start a new career? “On the one hand, you have a lot to lose, namely your reputation,” says Oliver Bierhoff. But of course professional footballers have a head start for their second career. “It makes things a lot easier when you have a certain level of fame and an existing network.” He himself noticed in discussions with his company Finvia Sports how many doors were opened by his fame and his contacts.

From Lahm to Götze – there are many role models

Many former professionals show how it can be done. Their name attracts new capital and creates trust. In the case of former national player Philipp Lahm, for example, he has invested in a whole portfolio of startups and companies. He is involved in the food company Schneekoppe, among others. Defender and midfield star Joshua Kimmich is investing in future technologies such as the metaverse.

Mario Götze, who shot Germany to the World Cup title in 2014, has also invested in dozens of young companies while still an active player – in climate technologies, solar systems, learning portals, but also in stocks and real estate. Former national player Simon Rolfes bought the goal-line technology company GoalControl early on. Today he is still a shareholder and sports director at Leverkusen.

“There is no shortcut”

But a name alone is not enough – success is not automatic. What do entrepreneurs need? Oliver Bierhoff says it's like in competitive sports: “You need discipline, resilience, you can't believe that the company will run itself.”

As a professional, you are used to dealing with pressure, you know how teams work and you can deal with people. “And then you just have to be hard-working – that applies in sport as well as in entrepreneurship. There are no shortcuts.”

Rarely does it go into the football business

World and European champion Uli Hoeneß founded his own sausage factory in the 1980s. It also supplies the Allianz Arena, home of FC Bayern, where Hoeneß is still honorary president after serving his prison sentence for tax evasion. But very few ex-professionals stay in the football world – these cases are rare.

And not everyone is born to be an entrepreneur or has the qualifications – this is the same for professional athletes as it is elsewhere in the professional world. At the beginning of the year, former national player Stefan Effenberg lost his job as a consultant to VR Bank Bad Salzungen Schmalkalden. The bank had given loans to professional football clubs, but lost a lot of money in the process.

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