When it comes to gambling, there are plenty of people that find interest and excitement with the games of risk and chance.
From high-flying corporate professionals to everyday normal people and everyone else in between. But perhaps the most dangerous bettors are those that seemingly have very little to lose and plenty of money coming in for bigger and better bets.
Athletes fall into this category perfectly and we’ve seen gambling lovers in all sports, from Basketball with Michael Jordan to Golf with Tiger Woods – it seems the more money available, the more athletes love to wager.
However, there are very few sports as lucrative as soccer, and it’s more common than you may first think for players to develop a love for gambling, whether that’s for better or for worse. From Poker Star affiliation to terrifying bankruptcy stories, we’ve seen it all in soccer – but it’s the players that form the most interesting story.
So let’s take a look at 6 soccer players that love to gamble and have a history with wagering.
1. Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney, former Manchester United and Everton striker is no stranger to controversy – living his entire adult life under the limelight.
Rooney, who currently plays for D.C. United made his debut at Everton at the age of 16 before heading over to Manchester United in 2004 for a grand sum of £25.6 million. Ever the fan of questionable antics, including massage-parlor visits, day-long parties, and high-class prostitutes, it’s barely a surprise that there’s a gambling debt to be added to his history too.
Rooney reportedly ran up a huge total debt of £700,000 in 2006 while betting on everything from soccer to the horses and dogs with a business associate of former forward, Michael Owen. He may be ranked as one of the very best soccer players of all time, but Rooney has made the headlines more with his life off the pitch than on it.
2. David Bentley
David Bentley, former Arsenal, Blackburn Rovers, and Tottenham Hotspurs man is the second player on our list to let gambling get the better of him with addiction in the early stages of his career.
Bentley admitted to a gambling problem reaching a peak of over 100 bets per day, although he managed to return the habit back to manageable levels in 2005. But it wasn’t something that could do alone and starting at the age of 14, was a huge issue for Bentley.
He credits his girlfriend and agent, Robert Segal, for their assistance in ending his addiction and getting him back on the straight and narrow.
3. Gianluigi Buffon
Gianluigi Buffon is another player with a soft spot for the cards, but it won’t be a huge surprise if you’re a frequent player at Poker Stars.
The Italian goalkeeper is no stranger to high-pressure environments, playing in nets in both national and club level tournaments – but it’s poker that Buffon loves when he’s not getting balls booted at his face. He’s such a fan of the game that the football hero joined Poker Stars as an ambassador in 2010.
“I can’t wait to play against Team PokerStars Pros and I’m ready to have lots of fun playing against everyone who wants to take me on.”
Big words from the former Italian number 1.
4. Dominic Matteo
Former Stoke City, Blackburn Rovers, Leeds United and Liverpool defender/midfielder Dominic Matteo staying in football for a 17-year professional career making a total of 366 league and cup appearances.
Unfortunately, the latter part of Matteo’s career was riddled with injury, leading to his retirement in 2009 at the age of 35. Collecting such a large wage for the majority of his adult life, Matteo would be expected to be set for life – but this wasn’t to be the case and he was declared bankrupt in 2015, just 6 years after his career end.
It was later confirmed in his autobiography ‘In My Defence’ that Matteo suffered a dangerous gambling addiction that drew heavily away from his life. Matteo documented huge 7-figure losses, jeopardizing his daughter’s inheritance after becoming drawn to betting online.
The defender managed to shift the addiction but recalls some of the largest publicly known bets made by a soccer player, perhaps most namely the winning bet of £200,000 on a single horse race.
5. Matthew Etherington
When it comes to seriously sizable wagers, it’s maybe Matthew Etherington that takes the cake with his gambling habits in his 2010 peak.
Etherington, who started his football career at Peterborough United was a fantastic player that soon caught the eyes of the larger Premier League clubs. Before long he signed with Tottenham Hotspur in 2000, but left after only 3 years, heading to West Ham United in 2003 where he made headlines, forming one of the key players for the team.
But it wasn’t just his abilities on the pitch that got him in the papers, Etherington developed a wicked gambling addiction whilst at the club, blowing a huge £1.5 million throughout his career. In 2015, Etherington spoke with Victoria Derbyshire, a journalist for the BBC and discussed the impact of gambling on professional footballers.
6. Eiður Guðjohnsen
But it might be Eiður Guðjohnsen who take the crown of biggest debt, although he might not exactly be proud of it, with a huge £6 million gambling debt.
The former Chelsea and Bolton Wanderers star faced reports that the forward owes as much as £6 million to two different banks thanks to an addiction that he picked up while recovering from an injury whilst at FC Barcelona.
The Icelandic forward is said to owe a whopping £4 million to Banque Havilland in Luxembourg alongside a further £1.8 million to Icelandic based Glitnir Bank. Although Guðjohnsen is currently paid £3 million per annum at his current Monaco based club, the debts are still enough to make the highest of high-rollers wince.
The forward has since vowed to never set foot in a casino ever again.