A former international footballer, forced through injury to retire at 27, says making shrewd investments in the housing market cushioned him from the financial horrors suffered by big name players like David James and Lee Hendrie.
Christian Ribeiro, who played for Bristol City and Wales, is now combining the hard lessons he learned on the pitch with the knowledge he has gained as a property entrepreneur to help current players prepare for the unexpected.
The 29-year-old is the co-founder of Performance Property Group, which helps footballers invest in the ‘right houses in the right areas’ to gain a monthly passive income and long-term financial growth.
As a youngster Christian was a rising star in the game. At just 16 he was playing for the Welsh under 17s. Two years later he turned down a £1m move to top flight club Everton as he thought he had more chance of regular games with Championship side Bristol City.
But in a cruel ‘twist’ of fate just 20 minutes into his first team debut, the young defender suffered the knee injury all players dread – he ruptured his cruciate ligament.
“It was an innocuous incident. I just turned following a player and that was that,” said Christian.
“I went from being the next best thing, to being out of the picture for the next 12 months. From that moment on I was never the same player again. The most important part of my game was my athleticism and I lost a big part of that.”
Remarkably, Christian went on to enjoy nine more years as a pro, marking world star Luka Modric in his senior debut for Wales against Croatia. He also went on to play in a European qualifier for Wales in Switzerland, and enjoyed spells with Stockport County, Colchester United, Carlisle United, Scunthorpe United, and Exeter City before hanging up his boots at Oxford United two years ago.
“I played for too long to be honest. I had virtually no cartilage left in my knee and it was bone on bone. I had to take painkillers every time I played and was in constant agony.”
The end came when doctors told him he had the knees of a 60-year-old and should stop all forms of running. He tried to make an insurance claim via the Professional Footballers’ Association but was told the injury was down to wear and tear.
“They refused to take the case, but even if I had been successful, I would have got maybe £30,000 which would hardly have lasted a lifetime anyway. Throughout my time in football I was on relatively good money – but not crazy money. Oxford were good to me. My last injury happened mid-season and they paid my next six months’ salary.
“After that I was quickly forgotten in the football world. Luckily, I had a great family and friends to see me through, but other players are not so lucky. They get into a financial mess and their lives rapidly go downhill.
“The stats for professional sportsmen make horrible reading. They are three times more likely to suffer from depression and 40 percent of them go bankrupt in the first five years after they retire. A third get divorced in their first year of marriage and 75 per cent in the first three years.”
Christian says even the highest paid players can end up bankrupt and emotional wrecks.
“I know people outside the Premier League paying £5,000 a month on their mortgages. If they get dropped from the club, or injured, they could be in big trouble. Like me they feel invincible when things are going well, but as in my case you never know what’s around the corner. You need cushions in place.”
Unlike rugby players, he says footballers are less likely to be financially astute and too often waste huge sums of money on expensive luxuries.
“Often they are less educated in things like finance. As their money goes up so do their expenses – but not their investments. You hear of players living in £2 million houses up north. You might think well at least that must be a good investment. But few people up there are looking to pay that kind of money for a home. When things go wrong, they find they can’t sell, but their bills keep coming in.”
Christian now considers himself to be ‘very lucky’ getting injured at such a young age because it changed his mindset. As a teenager he bought an apartment in the centre of Bristol which increased in value by £100,000 within a few years. The return from this ‘accidental success amazed him and it is still part of his property portfolio, earning him a good income from rent.
While he was still playing Christian decided to educate himself in property to set up a better future for himself. It turned out to be the best thing he ever did. The start of his journey was meeting 28-year-old property multi-millionaire Samuel Leeds. Samuel is chairman of Property Investors, the largest training company of its kind in the UK. His free crash courses attract 1,000 plus audiences from an average of 17 countries. Despite leaving school at 16 with no money behind him, Samuel could have retired at 21 through property investments.
“I was inspired by Samuel’s incredible story. I was still playing when I first met him but realised my income wouldn’t last forever. I went on the first crash course he ever organised. I was like a sponge for knowledge. I learnt a lot from Samuel and it really opened my eyes. We have remained friends. Self-development is important to me and I believe that property has the greatest potential to create a steady monthly income plus long-term capital growth.”
By the time Christian retired in November 2017, he had set up an income stream from five properties. Today, he and his business partner Jay Puddy own 60 properties between them.
They have two strands to the business: looking for investible properties themselves and finding investment opportunities for professional footballers.
“Our model is to find tired houses we can turn into single lets in areas we know are on the rise. We look for good transport links, schools and signs of regeneration. We have got a very smooth process in place which is basically a conveyor belt of everything that is required to locate, buy and rent out a property.
“We have a network of agents who help us find the deals in the best areas. We have the best accountants and mortgage brokers in place. We have the right contractors who add value to properties by carrying out refurbishments and my business partner has a letting agency to help find the right tenants. We are already enabling a number of footballers from the Premiership, Championship and lower leagues to tap into our process and expertise. We are growing a business for ourselves, and at the same time we are helping them to profit too.”
Performance Property Group is based in Manchester where Christian now scours for most of his properties. He lives in Cheltenham but spends most of his time in the North West.
“Every day I’m driving around, talking to agents and other people and viewing houses. The Manchester area has great potential, particularly around Stockport where I once went on loan to play. It was very drab then, but there is now a £1bn regeneration plan. Manchester city centre is just ten minutes away with its amazing transport links and strong employment. You can be in London in two hours. Manchester Airport is just five minutes away and another billion pounds is being spent on new terminals. We do a lot of investing in that area based on our experience of signs like that. I’ve been in property for ten years now and have learned a lot.
“We’re a very young company but the signs are really encouraging. It’s a bespoke service and we aim to keep the number of players we help small so we can really pay attention to their needs.
“As a player my career didn’t turn out how I wanted it to, but now I’m aiming for success in a different field. My message to current players is make sure you have cushions in place as you are going to retire early whatever happens, but something might also happen a lot sooner than you expect. I am the perfect case study to demonstrate that.
“When you are 35 or younger you need to ensure your finances are still moving and don’t just grind to a halt after you lose your salary. You need to soften the blow of losing all that money by having investments set up.”
Samuel Leeds described Christian as a fine role model to professional footballers.
“Christian’s story shows how short a pro’s career can be and why they should take more care in planning a financially free future. He was my first student and I enjoyed mentoring him for a year. It’s brilliant that he is now using his knowledge to help other players safeguard their futures.”
The Property Investors founder has also coached other footballers in how to make money from bricks and mortar, including one-time Aston Villa and England winger Tony Daley. But it was Christian who was the first footballer to benefit from Samuel’s expertise.
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