Footballers have long been very popular figures, but the way that they are perceived by the public has changed significantly over the last few years. Footballers have the ability to make tens of millions of pounds over the course of a relatively short career.
For any aspiring players, getting signed to play for a major English club is a ticket to a completely different lifestyle. The way that this massive change and sudden access to previously unimagined amounts of wealth is handled varies from one player to another. This article examines the ways that different footballers have handled their celebrity status over the years.
The David Beckham experience
David Beckham and his wife, the former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, defined celebrity throughout the early 2000s and, in many ways, were the first celebrities of the internet age. Beckham’s move from Manchester United to Real Madrid was one of the most speculated about and commented upon news stories of the year.
David Beckham was able to sign endorsement contracts worth tens of millions of pounds for all sorts of products ranging from boxer shorts to male perfumes. Manchester United was also able to make a lot of money out of his fame. David Beckham No. 7 shirts were one of the most popular Christmas presents for several years running.
More recent examples
Players from countries without a long football heritage often bring significant followings with them to the Premier League clubs that they Join. Son Heung Min of Tottenham Hotspur is an excellent example.
His success with the North London club has caused many Korean football fans who previously chose to follow Manchester United due to the success of another Korean player to switch allegiances to Spurs. It has also allowed the club to make a very significant amount of money by selling replica shirts and other types of merchandise into the South Korean market.
The English footballer Marcus Rashford has become a significant figure due to his campaigning around certain political issues, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rashford took up the cause of children who were left without access to free school meals when their schools were shut down in order to prevent transmission of the COVID virus.
Rashford was able to point to the importance of free school meals in his own childhood as an example of the importance of the policy. His campaigning caused a number of changes to government policy and led to significant media coverage of the issue.
Not all celebrities who decide to become involved in political campaigning are successful at what they set out to do, but Rashford has managed to make a difference by being authentic and choosing to engage with other people as part of his campaigns.
All of these examples show the different routes footballers can choose to follow when they are suddenly blessed with fame. Different options will work better for different players, and it can be hard to predict the path that any one player will choose to follow.