MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 12: Ronaldo Nazario, who won the FIFA 2002 World Cup with Brazil is photographed during a photo session on March 12, 2018 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

7 Times Footballers Bought Clubs & Became Owners as Ronaldo Closes in on Real Valladolid Takeover

Former Barcelona, Inter, Real Madrid and Brazil superstar Ronaldo is heavily tipped to complete a €30m takeover of La Liga club Real Valladolid in the coming weeks in a deal that is set to see him become president and majority shareholder.

Footballers buying/investing in football clubs is nothing new, with Ronaldo himself not actually a stranger to this kind of venture as we shall soon see. Sometimes it can be a roaring success and other times, as Ronaldo already knows, it can end in failure.

Here's a look at seven times when footballers have bought clubs and become owners...

7. Demba Ba, Eden Hazard, Yohan Cabaye & Moussa Sow

Demba Ba is the lead owner of San Diego 1904, a club that Chelsea superstar Eden Hazard, ex-Newcastle and Crystal Palace midfielder Yohan Cabaye and former Lille and Fenerbahce striker Moussa Sow are also involved with.

Ba was reported to be the chief investor with a 35% stake when the club was formed in the summer of 2017, but all four are presented as equal 'founders'.

It was intended that San Diego 1904 would start playing in the North American Soccer League (NASL) this year, only to see the league postpone and later cancel its season after failing to meet the sanctioning criteria to retain its Division 2 status in the U.S. league system.

There were then rumoured plans to join the United Soccer League (USL) in time for the 2019 season, although that also hangs in the balance after reportedly missing key negotiations.  

6. Paolo Maldini

AC Milan legend Paolo Maldini took the plunge into club ownership in 2015 when he was unveiled as co-owner of new club Miami FC alongside Italian businessman Riccardo Silva.

Maldini, winner of five European Cup/Champions League titles during his playing days, brought former Milan teammate Alessandro Nesta on board as the team's first coach and Miami FC debuted in NASL in the 2016 season.

The cancellation of the 2018 NASL season saw Miami FC unable to play games, although Miami FC 2 was quickly launched and entered into the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), with many of the club's NASL players transferred to the new team.

The goal is for Miami FC to resume action as soon as possible, but Maldini's attention is now somewhat divided after recently taking on a new directorial role back at Milan.  

5. George Dowell

George Dowell was a non-league player whose career was ended in its infancy after a life changing car accident in 2010 tragically left him paralysed from the chest down. 

But after a lengthy rehab and deciding he wanted to get back into football, Dowell used compensation money awarded from the accident to purchase Worthing FC after hearing that his former club were struggling financially.

"It took me a while to get back involved in football," he told the BBC in 2015. "I saw in the paper Worthing FC were in financial trouble. I still knew a couple of people at the club, came to see the people in charge so I thought I could help, I took a punt and here we are."

Dowell, now 25 years of age, is aiming to help Worthing reach the National League South (sixth tier of English football), with the club currently one promotion away.  

4. Ronaldo

Prior to negotiating with Real Valladolid, Brazilian superstar Ronaldo had previously owned a minority stake in NASL club Fort Laudersale Strikers after investing in 2014.

The two-time Ballon d'Or winner had grand ambitions, declaring at the time: "I will be very involved with the management of the team and have already started to make introductions that will certainly help us to turn the Strikers into a global powerhouse."

There was even a suggestion that Ronaldo, who had retired in 2011 after a spell back home in Brazil with Corinthians, would start playing again if he could get himself fit.

Unfortunately for Ronaldo, the Strikers were dissolved in 2016 after the club's failure to pay back a $300,000 loan to a rival team owner, with the team's patents, copyrights, trademarks and other assets used as collateral.

3. Didier Drogba

Chelsea hero Didier Drogba became the first player-owner in football history in 2017 when he arrived at USL club Phoenix Rising, taking on duties both on the pitch and in the boardroom to try and help get the franchise an MLS expansion berth.

Even at the age of 40, the Ivory Coast legend is still going strong and has scored 13 goals in 19 appearances. Away from the pitch, meanwhile, he says he has been inspired by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, with whom he had a good relationship.

"Roman Abramovich always made the right decision, even when it was the most difficult decision," Drogba commented last year.

"I think that is what I can learn from him. Not everything he has done has been popular, but it has always been for the benefit of Chelsea. He makes big decisions and he is brave. That is what I can do, sometimes take emotion out of the situation and do what is best."  

2. Class of '92

Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs, five sixths of Manchester United's famed 'Class of '92', bought into local non-league club Salford City in what soon became a joint venture with Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim in 2014.

The impact of their hands-on investment and influence, showcased in two series of the BBC documentary 'Class of '92: Out of Their League' has been huge - the club badge has been updated and the colours even changed from orange and black to red and white.

The aim of the investment was to take Salford into the Football League for the first time in their history and, after three promotions in four years, they are now one rung below their target.

The club went fully professional last year, while the capture of striker Adam Rooney from Europa League qualifiers Aberdeen this summer highlighted the size of Salford's ambition.  

1. David Beckham

David Beckham was invited to be part of the Salford City project with his long-time friends and former Manchester United colleagues, but his very busy schedule, which includes building his own club in Miami, meant he was unable to take part.

Having given MLS a much needed shot in the arm when he joined LA Galaxy as a player in 2007, Beckham's plans to launch a new club of his own were formally revealed in 2014.

It was originally hoped that the former England captain's team might debut in 2016 or 2017. But with an MLS place hinging on securing a site to build a stadium in downtown Miami, the process has been heavily delayed after much opposition to various stadium proposals.

Despite a location still not fully secured and the team yet to formally confirm a name or badge/logo, Miami were granted their MLS place in January and should start playing in 2020.