Faiq Bolkiah, a member of Brunei’s royal family and a professional footballer, has a net worth of £16 billion, making him arguably the richest footballer in the world. Bolkiah has played in the academies of Chelsea, Leicester, and Southampton, but never achieved his dream of playing in the Premier League. He currently plays for Chonburi in the top division of Thai football, where he has made 26 appearances and scored twice. The 24-year-old midfielder also has six caps for the Brunei national squad and has one goal.
Bolkiah’s wealth is significant when compared to the earnings of other high-profile footballers such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who have earned just over £1 billion each over the course of their careers. With Manchester United up for sale for £6 billion, Bolkiah could afford to purchase the club twice over and still have plenty of change in his pocket. However, Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Sir Jim Ratcliffe are currently the frontrunners for the purchase of the club, and there is no interest from the Bruneian royal family.
Bolkiah started his football career at AFC Newbury, a club near his school Bradfield College in Berkshire, before signing for Southampton’s academy at the age of 12 in 2009. After a brief spell with Reading, he played for Arsenal in the 2013 Lion City Cup against the likes of Corinthians, PSV Eindhoven, and Eintracht Frankfurt, and even scored a goal. He was eventually signed by Chelsea in 2014 on a two-year contract, where he played for the reserves before leaving for Leicester on a four-year deal. However, he never made the bench for either team and eventually left on a free transfer for Portuguese side Maritimo.
Bolkiah admits that leaving England was a mistake for his football career. He said, “Maritimo said to me ‘you’ll come here, you’ll play’ so I said ‘I just want to be here for a year. The main thing for me is I want to play.’ Obviously, that didn’t happen.” He regrets moving to Maritimo and feels that there was a lot of politics involved in the decision. However, he believes that it made him stronger and made him work harder.
It remains to be seen whether Bolkiah will ever return to European football or continue his life as a member of the Brunei royal family. He has admitted that leaving England was a mistake but also acknowledges that it made him stronger. While he could potentially buy Manchester United twice over, there is no interest from the Bruneian royal family, and other buyers are currently in the running for the club.