Former Brighton F.C.’s Wayne Bridge ‘Embarrassed’ by Huge Transfer Fees
Ex-premiership footballer Wayne Bridge has recently revealed his embarrassment over the huge transfer fees paid by Chelsea and Manchester City to sign him during his professional career. Bridge was part of the first batch of new signings at Chelsea to command such large transfer fees, following the takeover of the club in 2003 by Roman Abramovich. Both Chelsea and Manchester City paid millions of pounds to sign the top left back; amounts that Bridge found ‘just embarrassing’.
‘When people see what a club had paid for you’, he told reporters in an exclusive interview at a prestigious Dublin poker event recently, ‘it’s just silly’. Initially, his first £7 million transfer to sign with Chelsea from his former team Southampton in July 2003 felt ‘amazing’, he explained. Bridge went on to say that when football fans started commenting that he wasn’t worth such an astronomical fee, it became ‘embarrassing to be earning that much’.
The 37-year-old former star of ITV’s ‘I’m a Celebrity’ was in attendance at the annual PokerStars Dublin festival at the end of September where he was interviewed by reporters from the Irish Independent about his football career. His honest assessment of the extravagant financial figures involved in premiership football may come as a surprise to some, but Bridge says he’s ‘just that kind of person’.
Bridge was not quite 23 years of age when he was signed by Chelsea in 2003, but he had already played over 150 games for Southampton in the Premier League. He was then signed by Manchester City in January 2009 for an undisclosed sum that was rumoured to be in the region of £10 million. He retired from professional football three years ago after spending a season with Reading in the Football League Championship, choosing the Berkshire club over offers from Queens Park Rangers and Brighton.
Since his retirement, Bridge has had a difficult time adjusting to life outside the game, but playing poker has helped him to fill the gap that football has left in his life. The ex-England ace started to develop a passion for cards years ago when he would play local home games with his friends. He reconnected with it again in 2012 when he played for Brighton F.C. on loan from Man City. The players would organize a ‘card school’ amongst themselves on coach trips and in hotels during away games. He identified David Lopez, Brighton’s former midfielder, as his toughest opponent since he had a good poker face and was difficult to understand due to him only speaking Spanish!
Since then, Bridge has been a regular fixture on the professional poker circuit, playing in PokerStars tournaments throughout Europe as well as in one-day events and online poker games. Like many ex-professional footballers and athletes, Bridge has aligned himself with PokerStars, a global online poker platform specializing in innovative games like Power Up. This leading poker company also runs a mobile casino and sponsors some of the most prestigious events on the European professional poker calendar.
In fresh contrast to some of today’s current football stars who are thrust into the limelight with their multimillion-pound transfer fees, Bridge remains modest and level-headed about the transfer market — ‘Where will the transfer market go? I just don’t know. The whole thing has gone crazy’. However, he’s certain that the era of super-rich football club owners isn’t going to stop anytime soon as long as the ‘money keeps rolling in’. He could be forgiven for harbouring secret regrets about retiring from this lucrative industry, but after spending some time stepping away from football entirely, Bridge doesn’t seem to be missing the life he left behind in 2014 at all.