Footballers find different ways to pass the large amount of spare time in the job. Allan Saint-Maximin is a Twitter personality. Gareth Bale enjoys the odd round of golf. Leicester’s Ryan Bertrand? “I’ve just finished the Harvard alternative investments course,” he tells Sky Sports.
Bertrand is far from the only Premier League player who is a student of academia as well as a student of the game. Few though have set up – and sold – their own ‘fintech’ (financial technology) business, nor traded investments since he turned 18.
The England international has plans for a life in business after football, but his analytical brain is already playing a factor in everything he does, from developing those early business ventures through to deciding on his next destination after leaving Southampton in June.
Now aged 32, Bertrand does not want to fall into the trap some ex-professionals find themselves in after retiring without a plan of what happens next. The Harvard course adds to a long line of business-oriented work alongside his professional career. In addition to the sale of that fintech firm, he has also developed an emoji business alongside ex-Chelsea team-mate John Terry.
“Sports is my passion, that’ll never leave, but finance is another one,” he explains. “As you’re building the blocks towards post-career, you’ve got to re-learn, re-train, help yourself become an expert in something different. It’s those horror stories that have kept me ahead of the game, I’m always thinking forward.”
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His careful thought process took him to the East Midlands and Leicester, a step closer back towards the Champions League days of his younger years at breakthrough club Chelsea, and if he keeps his place for Sunday’s game with Crystal Palace, live on Sky Sports Premier League, it will be his fourth league start in since joining last season’s FA Cup winners.
We’re all used to hearing how ambitious a club is and how wonderful the fans at this stadium in particular are when new players explain their decision to join. Bertrand’s reasons for choosing Leicester from his list of summer suitors do tread some familiar ground, but you can hear the fruits of his own research speaking when he explains his rationale.
He said: “It was the right time for me to come to a club like Leicester, with the vision of where it wants to go, and what it wants to do and achieve. The ethos of the club surrounding the team, it’s a connected club, I think the fans and ownership are very aligned with one another, which is always brilliant when you have that.
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“When you have a few offers, you gauge where you are. I’m still ambitious, I want to be the best I can be, I strive to be one of the best in the league and the club wants that too. We met up on that aspect, and then you sit back and look at that – some clubs can talk a good game, but who’s executing that vision?
“The club is aligned with my footballing philosophy; attacking, high-intensity game, which is perfect for me. To come here and do that and compete at the top level and show what I can do, I needed the platform to do that.
“The owners here have been second to none, and there’s a feel-good factor around the fans. Being in the game, you can see and feel it, you can see the bond when you play against them as an opposition player and that generally means the ownership structure in place is right too.”
It does not take an analytical brain to work out what else has drawn him to the club. By 24, Bertrand owned winners’ medals from the Champions League, FA Cup and Europa League.
In the eight years since there have been a few near misses with Southampton, but given Leicester’s FA Cup win last season – after beating a limp Southampton in the semi-finals – and with time beginning to run out, the lure of silverware is a clear draw.
Bertrand (bottom left) had made only 12 starts for Chelsea before he was named in their line-up for the 2012 Champions League final
“My first competitive game, we won the Community Shield, which is another tick in the box and has cemented the whole ethos I was buying into,” he says. “They don’t just arrive in the big games, they arrive to win them.”
Bertrand’s deep analysis extends to many things, but his reasoning behind speaking out so clearly behind the No Room For Racism campaign last year was very much from the heart, and opened up some raw memories of disgraceful abuse he had received not only during his professional career, but also on the streets of London as a seven-year-old child.
No one has taken a knee more proudly than the defender, who has seen some of his colleagues across the domestic pyramid become disillusioned with the impact it is having more than a year since it became commonplace – something he strongly disagrees with.
“First and foremost, it’s still a prominent message, there’s no doubting that,” he said. “There’s no flagging, saying it’s enough. It’s not enough. It’s enough when it’s stopped. I do think also there needs to be a question, what’s next?
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the 2-2 draw between Leicester and Burnley
“That’s not saying the knee has to stop, that needs to be there, because it’s irritating the racists and that champion inequality for some reason. That’s great, because we’re forcing the message out there, but also as a group, with the leaders of the Premier League, we need to sit down with people and think as a movement where this goes next, when is it seen as progress.
“Things like after the Euros final show why we do this. Unfortunately, it’s forever going to be there. We can’t control the world, but we can control our sport, our game. With the social media websites, the powers that be, we can do that.”
Back on the pitch, Leicester’s wobbly start has left them 13th in the table after six games, only one point ahead of Sunday’s opponents Crystal Palace and already five off their tally at the same stage last season.
Injuries, especially the absence of Jonny Evans, have been blamed for much of the Foxes’ stuttering start, which Bertrand believes will only be a blip with the team’s confidence still high.
“It’s still relatively early in the season, but we need to get the motion going, the fluidity in attack,” he says. “I think it’s not a bad start, but a slow start for our standards.
“One thing you can take is that we’ve dominated in games, it’s a matter of working on individual things. Against Burnley it didn’t help conceding the own goal and giving us an uphill start, but the confidence was there to go on and get back into it; the confidence isn’t the problem, it’s just a matter of getting into our fluidity. It’s going to come.”
His future may lie away from football at the conclusion of his playing career but for now helping Leicester back to the top is very much his primary business interest – and no one in the Foxes dressing room is going to be spending more time thinking of how to make that a reality than Bertrand.
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