It’s probably never been tougher to be an ex-professional footballer. It’s hard to imagine how former football players must feel watching the game, knowing that even mundane EPL players are earning vast fortunes.
One player to have just missed out on the ‘stupid money cake’ is Emile Heskey. A top flight career as a bruising forward with Leicester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Wigan and Aston Villa came to an end in 2012 (although he did enjoy a career swansong in Australia’s A-League with Newcastle Jets and Bolton Wanderers in the championship). Heskey’s salary during his career was far from peanuts level, but perhaps it didn’t attain the heights the EPL superstars of today enjoy.
The Emile Heskey interview at the fan-generated site Askfans.co.uk outlined some of the big man’s views on the modern game. He mentioned how he thought the game had become quicker, and how the modern-day footballer is practically an Olympic-standard athlete.
“People are looking after their bodies more,” said Heskey. He also cited that he would have loved in his heyday to play with Leicester City’s lightning-quick striker Jamie Vardy, or Manchester United’s record signing Romelu Lukaku.
After his retirement, Heskey went on to spend a lot of time on the veterans circuit, particularly in Asia. Indeed, he was part of the England veterans team that beat Germany 4-2 at Singapore’s National Stadium.
“People out here seem to like me,” said Heskey at the time. “It seems like I get a lot of job opportunities in Asia. It’s nice to be liked, and it’s nice to come out here regularly.”
“I haven’t missed professional football in terms of playing. I’ve more missed the training, and the daily camaraderie with all the lads. But so far, my post-football career has been good.”
“You can’t go forever, and you don’t want to overstay your welcome. Your body tells you when you need to retire. You see some younger lads who are quicker and more agile than you – but not necessarily stronger – and you say let them have their time let them shine. I’ve had twenty-one years of it. But I felt okay. I could have kept playing.”
Heskey’s post-football career likely stems from a need to keep himself occupied rather than salaried. A report in FourFourTwo’s magazine in 2009 put his personal wealth at £12 million and many would argue it’s hard to begrudge the big man that.
Derided by some for his ‘poor’ goalscoring record, Heskey was the type of player who never gave less than one hundred percent, and it’s no coincidence that many of his striking partners – including, memorably, Michael Owen for both club and country – fed off what Heskey helped supply and scored goals in record numbers.
It’s hard to fathom how today’s millionaire players will react once their careers come to an end and their bank accounts end up more swollen than a broken ankle. Rich they may be, but oodles of cash is perhaps a poor substitute for the thrilling weekly involvement that modern football brings.