Super rich footballers who lost everything in spectacular falls from grace

Most footballers should make enough money from their careers to last a lifetime.

The riches of a career at the pinnacle of the game are plentiful, but not all professional players are sensible enough with their money to ensure a life of luxury.

Some players make sound financial decisions, build up property portfolios or invest in racehorses to ensure they have a lucrative nest egg to fall back on when they hang up their boots.

But others find themselves drowning in a sea of debt. From bad business deals to huge gambling debts and plentiful demons, these are the players who threw it all away.

Kenny Sansom

Sansom was once England's most capped left back, pulling on the Three Lions shirt 86 times.

But retirement has not been so kind on the former Arsenal and Crystal Palace defender. Sansom has had well-publicised problems with alcoholism and gambling.

His drinking problem led to the breakdown of his marriage, depression and homelessness when a picture in 2013 showed him sleeping rough on a park bench.

Sansom, who lived in a £1million mansion in his heyday, said: "I’ve been living homeless for ten days.

“That’s because I’ve got no money, I’m a drunk, I’m feeling not very well and I’m a gambler. I’ve been living on the street.”

The Professional Footballers' Association and former clubs Arsenal and Crystal Palace have tried to help Sansom but he has struggled to stay on the wagon.

Last year he was admitted to hospital after the 62-year-old suffered a serious head injury, where his family said he was receiving 24-hour care but did not have coronavirus. He is now recovering.

George Best

Best is considered one of the greatest footballers of all time, winning the European Cup with Manchester United as well as the Ballon d'Or, recognised as the most prestigious individual award in the sport.

He famously quipped: "I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I squandered."

But Best battled alcoholism for much of his life, and by the time he died in November 2005 aged 59, he was virtually penniless.

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He continued to drink even after having a successful liver transplant operation. Days before his death he was pictured in his hospital bed with jaundice at his own request along with the message: "Don't die like me."

Best squandered most of his money away, and a leading liver specialist at a private hospital treated him free of charge in his final days.

Illness prevented him from cashing him on his two main income streams – the after-dinner speaking circuit and as a guest commentator on Sky Sports.

Keith Gillespie

Gillespie was once the bright young thing of British footballer, but his dealings with money serve as such as cautionary tale that his autobiography is entitled How Not to Be a Football Millionaire.

The former Manchester United and Newcastle star estimates that he lost a staggering £7million through gambling alone, and he was declared bankrupt by the Belfast High Court in October 2010.

He revealed that he once lost £62,000 in one weekend before an important game for Newcastle against Tottenham Hotspur.

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Gillespie said: "The buzz is the big thing when you are gambling. That first win, the adrenaline of it. It doesn't matter how much you have on a horse or a dog, the thrill of winning was there and that is what got me hooked.

"With being in the bookies from such a young age I have known what it is like to lose money. At such a young age you don't have that much regard for money so that was a big downfall for me."

Gillespie also made some bad investments in film and property which went wrong, adding to his money problems.

Paul Gascoigne

Gazza's post-retirement woes have been more widely publicised than most.

He is considered one of the greatest English footballers of all time but his post-retirement life has been overshadowed by his demons.

Ex-Spurs and Rangers ace Gazza talked about his problems in his autobiography, which include alcoholism, bulimia, bipolar disorder, depression, Tourette's syndrome and obsessive compulsive disorder.

He has struggled with alcohol and has twice being sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

The legend recently admitted he has given up his latest "addiction" – social media. He said: "I got addicted and kept on looking at it.

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"I’m just trying to enjoy life as much as possible and make the most of what I’ve got. I know I’m happier when I’m not drinking. I can sometimes be a sad drunk."

Gazza narrowly avoided bankruptcy in 2016 after settling a £42,000 bill with the tax man he had owed for five years.

These days the footballing icon makes his money as a regular on the lucrative after dinner speaking circuit, while he would also hold meet and greets before the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Gazza has had many stints in rehab for his drinking, often followed by relapses, but he is now back on the wagon.

One of his most bizarre stories features his bid to 'save' killer Raoul Moat. He arrived at the police stand-off in his dressing gown with chicken, lager and a fishing rod, claiming that he was "good buddies" with the dangerous murderer.

He had been drinking and snorting cocaine.

Lee Hendrie

Hendrie was capped once for England but despite a long career in the Premier League with boyhood club Aston Villa, he was declared bankrupt at the High Court in January 2012.

The ex-midfielder has also had problems with alcohol and twice tried to kill himself, the most recent time in 2018.

In August 2010 his property portfolio, once worth £10million, had been enveloped by huge debt and Hendrie knew his home and the house he had bought for his mum would be repossessed.

Of his first suicide attempt, Hendrie said: "I vaguely remember bits of the ambulance ride. It was very blurred. But one thing that really stood out was waking up.

"It was horrible. I didn’t like the fact I was still alive. There were lots of worries.

"‘Am I going to a psychiatric ward because I’ve done this?’ But, most of all, I was thinking: ‘I’m going to do this again. I want to be free of everything.’"

Ronaldinho

The Brazilian was one of the superstars of world football in the first decade of the 21st century, but it has been a dramatic fall from grace for the playmaker with the buck-toothed grin.

Reports emerged that he only had £5 to his name and was on the verge of bankruptcy with almost £2million of debts to his name.

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Ronaldinho was heavily fined for illegal construction in a protected area in Brazil.

Despite remortgaging his property, the former Barcelona star was unable to cover the debts which saw a judge order for his passport to be seized.

And last year Ronaldinho even found himself imprisoned in Paraguay after he was accused of entering the country with a fake passport while coming for a charity event and book promotion.

Paul Merson

The former Arsenal star blew his £7million fortune on gambling, alcohol and drugs in the 1990s.

His gambling problem was so bad that he claims he once considered breaking his own fingers to prevent him from phoning the bookmakers.

Merson went broke after cashing in on his £800,000 pension to allow him to go on a betting frenzy.

Daily Star columnist Merson is now winning the battle with his demons and he is a respected pundit on Sky Sports.

In his playing days his addictions spiralled into depression and Merson admitted: "I have an illness, I accept that."

He said of his demons: "Going out, you look like Brad Pitt because you're playing for the best team in the country.

"But of course it was all masked. You have to put a smile on your face.

"Behind the scenes, you've just lost all of your money, and there's going to be a big story breaking in the paper next week about you with a girl you were with three weeks before who sold their story."

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