Andrea Pirlo, Xavi, Frank Lampard; these are some of the most gifted and remarkable footballers to grace a football pitch in the last thirty years, perhaps even the last hundred, perhaps ever. Unfortunately for us, they’re a part of a long list of living legends who chose to retire from the game in 2017. Francesco Totti, Xabi Alonso and Phillip Lahm are amongst the others. When a batch of the sport’s most respected heroes hangs up their boots for good it reminds us of that lingering question in the life of a football player; what happens when it’s all over?
The career of a footballer is a somewhat unnatural concept in the modern working world. When they embark on their journey most of us are still in short trousers playing in the park with our friends and when it abruptly comes to an end a good number of us are still only beginning to reach the peak of our potentials in our own chosen fields. Because of this defined, finite and physically limited period in which a player can ply his trade, it is more than vital that he or she has their next step in life planned well in advance of retirement. More than anything to avoid falling into the pitfalls that often entrap footballers when the final whistle blows.
The career of a successful footballer is as full in its intensity, pressure and purpose as it is limited in time span. Retirement isn’t the simple process of collecting your final payslip and moving on with life. It is a total and almost inconceivable shift in lifestyle. One month you’re basking in having 50,000 people sing your name, playing the sport you love every day, indulging on the adrenalin brought on by sporting success - all the while making more money than half the country. The next you are queuing at the post office and hoping the line goes down quickly so you can make it home in time for a visit from the gasman. This extremely jarring pivot in life can often have an overwhelming impact on a player’s mental health. Conditions such as depression, alcoholism and gambling addiction, amongst many others, are widespread and common among ex-players.
Despite the obvious need to plan ahead for the end of their career, it is often the case that footballers need guidance, help and advice in order to fully put it into action. This is often down to them not having enough experience of the real world, being too focused on their current performances or even a denial of the fact their career will ever end. This is where intermediaries play an essential role in the futures of their players; if you are doing your job properly then you are a friend and mentor to your clients as well as a contract negotiator, and this relationship is tested most when your players retire.
Ensuring that all of my players have the right tools in place to lead a fulfilling life after they walk down the tunnel for the last time has been a crucial element of the service I’ve provided across my 20+ years of experience in the industry. Purpose and happiness is just as important as financial stability, and agents will do well to remember that. It’s about maximising your role in a player’s life to guide them into a post playing scenario which feeds their ambitions and aspirations whilst also supporting their families.
Whether this is through coaching, investing their money into starting demanding businesses or even in some cases working as an intermediary with myself or others, there are several options to pursue and with this knowledge all intermediaries should be using their contacts in the professional world to make their clients’ transitions easier. Even in cases where footballers know exactly what to do they can still need an outside influence who knows the ins and outs of their situation from witnessing it in the past to help prepare them for the future. Sometimes this includes convincing them to start it five years earlier than they had planned.
While it may be hard to feel sympathy for a retiring footballer, it is just as difficult to deny the dramatic effect such a fundamental change can have on a person. This is a feeling familiar to World Cup winners and Third Division subs alike and is mostly one that is dealt with alone. It is a fundamental truth in the career of a footballer and one that has to be realised and dealt with much sooner than those part of the rest of the working world. There’s just as much work to be done off the field with the future in mind, and any intermediary who doesn’t give his or her all to help a player build this future isn’t worth their salt in any sense. It’s all well and good being there when the match is in full swing, but you also need to be there when the final whistle blows.
e-Careers have exclusively developed the Football Intermediary Certificate so you can know what it takes to manage the negotiations and transitions of your clients from their playing career, to the rest of their future. To find out more, click here.