The football icons who have invested in Esports teams
In 2020, global Esports revenues hit $996million and Statista estimates this could almost double to $1.866billion by 2025.
It’s therefore little surprise that the world’s most successful stars in football are looking to get in on the act.
With plenty of money burning holes in their back pockets, both current and retired football icons have sought to invest in or build their own Esports franchises to compete in regional and international events across a host of disciplines.
All kinds of competitive online games are now considered an Esport. It doesn’t have to be massively multiplayer online (MMO) games like League of Legends or even combat games such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO).
Many now consider poker to be a form of Esport, given its online accessibility. It also meets the brief of the definition of sport, which is an activity requiring “physical exertion and skill”.
There is also a distinct crossover between poker and conventional Esports, with some of the most successful poker pros having competitive gaming careers away from the tables. Lex Veldhuis is one such example, as the Dutchman has been a part of Team Liquid for many years.
With such a diverse Esports industry in 2023 and beyond, let’s explore the footballers past and present that have a financial interest in Esports organisations around the world today.
You’d think that Beckham would have enough on his plate owning MLS franchise Inter Miami without co-owning his own Esports franchise as well.
Guild Esports was founded in 2020 and is going from strength to strength in the UK Esports community.
The outfit has developed its own academy infrastructure, as well as a state-of-the-art base for players and academy prospects to network. Today, Guild now has active professional rosters competing in the likes of FIFA, CS:GO and Rocket League.
Former Argentina and Manchester City superstar Aguero established his very own KRÜ Esports team back in 2020, just 12 months before his emotional City departure.
The decision was inspired by the Argentine’s increasing notoriety on Twitch, the number-one live streaming portal for Esports professionals and events.
KRÜ Esports is based in Sergio’s homeland of Argentina, with a view to finding top gaming talent on Argentinian soil that would not otherwise have a chance of making the big time. KRÜ Esports has made huge strides in the Esports game of VALORANT. It was hand-picked as one of ten teams to enter the VCT Americas International League.
Virgil van Dijk
Liverpool’s imperious central defender Virgil van Dijk was announced as an investor in UK-based Esports franchise Tundra last summer.
The Dutchman was enlisted to help grow the exposure of Tundra’s organisation, which was established back in 2019. Tundra partnered with van Dijk due largely to their links to FIFA, fostering successful FIFA Esports teams before branching out into popular titles like Fortnite, DOTA 2 and Rocket League.
Tundra’s biggest achievement to date came at DOTA 2’s The International, with their team scooping last year’s first prize, which is one of the biggest prize pools in Esports.
David de Gea
Manchester United’s long-time number-one goalkeeper has always held a passion for competitive gaming. He described it as a “dream come true” when launching his very own Spain-based Esports franchise, Rebels Gaming, in 2021.
De Gea has leant on some of his Manchester United team-mates to try and grow the Rebels Gaming brand, with Bruno Fernandes and former United midfielder Juan Mata both secured as new shareholders.
Rebels Gaming already competes at regional Esports events across a range of disciplines, most notably VALORANT, League of Legends and Rainbow Six Siege.
Former Netherlands international star Ruud Gullit has also turned his hand to Esports. The 60-year-old former player and manager has proven age is no barrier to the Esports industry, with the creation of Team Gullit, the world’s first “independent FIFA academy”.
This franchise scouts up-and-coming FIFA Esports talent and provides the platform and the training to make it on the biggest stage.
Team Gullit has developed partnerships with professional teams since its formation in 2018, penning deals with the likes of Vitesse Arnhem and Atlanta United.
Other notable mentions of footballers investing time and money into the Esports scene today include Brazilian midfielder Casemiro, who also has his own Case Esports team founded during his time at Real Madrid.
English forward Jesse Lingard also purchased an existing Esports organisation in 2021, Audacity Esports, choosing to rebrand it to JLINGZ Esports.
The team has gone from strength to strength, even penning exciting sponsorship deals with the likes of SportLocker.