The lavish trappings of many top-flight footballers have been well documented — flash cars, state-of-the-art houses, glistening watches and bejeweled jewelry.
Like many of his peers, Dutch international Ryan Babel has been there and done that, but the former Liverpool star is keen to break away from those stereotypes and explore other hinterlands.
Which is why he estimates his property portfolio will extend to 50 affordable houses in the multi-family market worth in the region of $30 million predominantly in Amsterdam and Miami by the end of the year.
Babel has also dabbled with becoming a stock market day trader and is passing on financial advice to his fellow footballers, not to mention running his Los Angeles-based music label, Underrated Music Group.
“I feel like football players are a lot smarter than years ago but still this is really out there,” Babel told CNN Sport.
“It’s about trying to change the narrative as still too often when sitting at the table at lunch with teammates, conversations are about the newest car they purchased or the newest watch and you slowly try to change that conversation into what type of investments they have made, what type of real estate they have bought.”
Babel was initially a reluctant investor. He bought his first property at the age of 20 after moving from Ajax to Liverpool in July 2007. Following a subsequent transfer to Germany, his agent and father encouraged him to invest in property, initially buying a home to let every quarter.
But with 10 properties to his name, Babel says he felt unfulfilled, as though he was going through the financial motions, so he looked into day trading at the age of 27, enrolling in a year-long course. However post-qualification, ultimately the time needed to invest while playing professional football proved unrealistic.
So he changed tack. Having previously been a solo cash buyer, he brought in partners and leverage from banks, inspired by the books of American businessman Robert Kiyosaki.
“I asked myself what job is able to replace a football salary on a monthly basis,” reflected Babel. “It has to be a successful business. I received a book from a friend by Robert Kiyosaki and when I read that book my way of looking at things changed instantly.
“I read a few more and understood different ways of investing in real estate, doing my due diligence, doing homework … what are the ups and downs.
“That’s where I understood that if you invest in multi-family homes, it’s quite secure and building the right team … Since then I’ve been quite successful at it.”
‘Life can come at you very hard and quick’
He estimates his portfolio will grow to 100 properties. Other investments Babel has made include American musician Ryan Leslie’s Superphone, a custom text management system enabling direct interaction with fans.
He’s also passionate about the idea of sharing with teammates what’s he learnt in trying to future proof his financial security.
He says he has shared financial advice with peers in the Dutch international set-up, at current team Galatasaray and at his original club Ajax, where he had been on loan last season when the coronavirus pandemic struck.
“I felt obligated to share this information with colleagues, especially how football players manage finances,” said Babel.
“They sometimes have this idea that this lifestyle is forever so they splash money around, they’re not investing, not careful and I feel kind of a little bit responsible for the young generation. Of course enjoy life, but put something aside so you can create some type of security later.
“My career is going to be finished one day of course. Maybe one of my purposes now is to teach the younger generational footballers who are getting involved very quick with big contacts.
“Get involved early to get your feet wet outside the comfort zone of football. It’s going to be a tough world once you hang up your boots if you’ve not educated yourself in this society or economy. Life can come at you very hard and quick.”
At 33, Babel is enough of a realist to know his career is in its twilight’s years. Unlike so many his peers, he is bidding to tell his story not via an ghosted autobiography but through a music album.
“You know how footballers always write an autobiography after their career, I came with the idea to do that but in a music form,” said Babel.
“Basically, it will be a music rap album where I speak my truth, my past journey, my football career and the things that happened over the years. I’m busy with that now.”
It is all a far cry from the 20-year-old who lived alone for the first time in his life in Liverpool, a club for which he retains a strong affection for.
Under Jurgen Klopp’s leadership last season Liverpool won the English domestic title for the first time in 30 years.
Babel believes he would have thrived under the more huggable approach of the German than his long-time manager on Merseyside — Rafael Benitez.
“I definitely think I would have maybe flourished much better,” he said. “Some players need a manager who is like this father figure or uncle. Unfortunately my time was different. I was on my own and had to figure it out all by myself.
“I still was quite young, went there aged 20 at the time and had never experienced living by myself. It was my first experience abroad, all these things, all these factors are shaping a player.
“But yeah I definitely think the type of manager Jurgen Klopp is from what I see from the outside was definitely a manager I could use at the age of 20 years.”
The Koeman effect at Barcelona
This season, Babel has set his sights on winning the Turkish league with Galatasaray as well as maintaining his place in the Dutch national set-up following the departure of coach Ronald Koeman to Barcelona.
And Babel is confident his former boss can be a success at the Camp Nou, despite the ongoing saga of Lionel Messi’s contract.
“He’s a very good coach,” he said. “However, sometimes in football timing is very important. Right now, there’s a lot going on in Barcelona. I just hope that it doesn’t affect the process of him focusing on shaping his squad.
“He’s a very good coach and able to bring successes back to Barcelona. For me, I think one of this strengths is give players responsibility and create a groups process … a certain atmosphere that he’s really making a building a team, even here. For us, Koeman created an atmosphere that everyone wanted to be a part of.”
As for his own future, Babel envisages a potential final hurrah back in the English Premier League after the remaining two years of his contract in Galatasaray.
And then he will transition full-time into his other businesses, notably his property portfolio.
In and out of the sport, it has been a steep learning curve, and he is honest enough to admit to regrets.
“I had a time where I believed in good ideas very quick and then only me as a person had to invest financially in it. It goes wrong…and it happened to me a little bit too often, reflects Babel.
Older and wiser, he is flourishing both on and off the pitch.