Six sports stars who milked the cash cow dry – from Mayweather to Rivaldo

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At the end of the day, professional sport, just like every other job, is a means to an end for athletes.

Just ask former Tottenham Hotspur star Benoit Assou-Ekotto. In 2010, the defender said: "It's only a job. Yes, it's a good, good job, and I don't say that I hate football, but it's not my passion." And at the end of the day, it's often money that keeps these stars going forwards.

Here Daily Star Sport looks at six sporting stars who milked the cash cow dry as money drove them to continue, rather than their love of the game.

Floyd Mayweather

With a nickname like 'Money' it's hardly surprising to find Floyd Mayweather on the list, and while he's one of the best boxers of all time – after retirement Mayweather has taken part in lucrative exhibition bouts.

After hanging up his gloves, Mayweather took on Tenshin Nasukawa – a Japanese kickboxer – before facing internet personality, Logan Paul. The Paul bout is perhaps Mayweather's most famous retirement match, and the YouTuber still claims he's yet to see a penny from the bout.

Money then faced Don Moore and another kickboxer Mikuru Asakura in quick succession. The 45-year-old is now gearing up to face Deji, the younger brother of KSI.


Brazilian playmaker Rivaldo was one of the best technical footballers on the planet during his heyday. Who could forget that stunning overhead kick for Barcelona?

What is slightly more forgettable about Rivaldo's career are those four glorious years under the sun in Greece, those two years in Uzbekistan, and perhaps his small foray in Angola. By the time he hung up his boots in 2015, Rivaldo's career had spanned over three decades.

In fact, by his retirement in 2015, it had been 12 years since he had played for a side in the 'European big five' leagues and featured for the Selecao.

Shaquille O'Neal

Shaquille O'Neal wasn't just great for the Los Angeles Lakers – he was perhaps the most dominant centre in the history of basketball, and it's all thanks to his size.

Shaq was so dominant he forced numerous rule changes in the NBA: stronger backboards, zone defence, and the rule that has been popularised as the 'Hack-a-Shaq'. But as his shine began to dimmer, Shaq didn't step away from the sport.

Instead, he trundled on in numerous largely forgettable spells, culminating in Boston. He retired in 2011: "We did it. Nineteen years, baby. I want to thank you very much. That's why I'm telling you first. I'm about to retire. Love you. Talk to you soon."

Brock Lesnar

Brock Lesnar is somewhat of a curiosity in the sporting world, does he simply get bored, or just go where the money leads him?

"The Next Big Thing" first gained worldwide attention in the WWE, before quitting the pro wrestling business at the height of his popularity. He turned his hand to the NFL and then to the UFC – where he held the UFC Heavyweight Championship. However, in 2012, he made a shock return to the WWE.

These days Lesnar is a rare attraction in the world of sports entertainment, showing up at Saudi-backed events and occasionally popping up around WrestleMania for a big pay cheque.


Hulk is an outlier in terms of professional footballers across the past couple of decades.

As one of the most talented players in Europe, the Brazilian forward never played in any of the top five European leagues: Instead, Hulk spent his best days in Portugal with Porto and then Russia with Zenit St.Petersburg.

To top off his strange career, Hulk then moved to China for a quick cash grab, before finally returning to South America in 2021.

Lance Armstrong

In the world of cycling, Lance Armstrong was untouchable, or so he thought, until his retirement in 2005. The Texan walked away from the bike after securing a record-setting seventh Tour de France win.

Four years later, Lance was back on a huge contract with Kazakh outfit Astana. It was reported that in his first race back – a small World Tour race, the Tour Down Under, Armstrong earned $1.5million for just showing up in Australia.

The return was ultimately his downfall as doping allegations finally caught up with him – and any money earned from his return was soon paid back by the infamous cheat.


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  • Floyd Mayweather
  • Nba
  • Barcelona FC
  • WWE
  • Tour de France

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