Gareth Bale’s idiosyncratic off-pitch habits have been well dissected by the Spanish media of late, thanks to candid revelations from teammates Thibaut Courtois and Marcelo. The Welshman, so the rumours go, likes golf and an early night. The future of the former Tottenham star is now under scrutiny, with avenues regarding his next move available on sportsbetting24.ca. But in this professional, scrutinised era, how do his La Liga peers fill their own plentiful spare time? And what do their interests reveal about them as people, not players?
Gerard Pique’s off-field activities have perhaps been the most visible of any Spanish-based footballer, certainly over the past year. Alongside being the chair of Barca’s chief sponsor Rakuten, he founded the investment company Kosmos, which has been leading the regeneration of tennis competition the Davis Cup.
Since wading into his second sport, the Catalan has been criticised by luminaries such as Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt for not understanding the game and making some notable missteps. Perhaps with this in mind, Pique has recently diverted back to football, buying fifth-tier side FC Andorra, for whom he will become president. Ernesto Valverde could be forgiven for keeping a closer than usual eye on his charge’s focus over the coming months.
Sergio Ramos, the other half of Spain’s most celebrated former central defensive pairing, maintains a strong interest in his native region – Andalusia. In Bollullos de la Mitacion to be precise, where he makes the most of the agricultural land to run his ‘SR4’ stud farm. A passion of his from very young, Ramos devotes as much time to horses as his schedule allows, even attending the SICAB (International Horse Show) in Seville in November to see his ‘Yucatan de Ramos’ become world champion.
His long-time cross-town rival Antoine Griezmann also shares a passion for horses, and even compared watching his own take part in competitions as more nerve-wracking than taking a penalty in the Champions League – something that Atleti fans were none too pleased about.
As well as the profit-seeking and the hobbyists, La Liga’s stars also put a lot of their time into charitable initiatives. None more so than Lionel Messi. He has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2004, and as part of this role once raised over $1m for ‘Un sol para los chicos’, a telethon to benefit projects in Argentina.
He also has his own foundation that has helped fund medical research all around the world. His most recent project, ‘Para los valientes’, is supporting the setup of a paediatric cancer care centre in Barcelona.
While there remains a strong core of console players amongst the Spanish footballing community, there are also many who are looking to make a difference outside the game, in areas that meet their passions and interests as people.