If I asked you to name a billion dollar man in football, you’d be forgiven for instantly jumping to thoughts of Roman Abramovich; a man who turned up in the Premier League and to paraphrase David Dein “…parked his tank on our lawn and fired £50 notes at us”.
At a stretch you might think of the odd footballer, but then you’d realise pretty quickly that Beckham, Messi and CR7 aren’t there yet. What is less likely is that you would think of an agent. In years gone by the agent has been the sports equivalent of the invisible hand; unquoted directly in the media, controlling affairs from behind the scenes, and collecting their hefty paycheques far away from the gaze of the general public.
Modern day business dynamics have changed a lot, long gone are the days when the top footballers were just that, footballers, and you couldn’t pick their agent out of a lineup.
Today when it comes to the poker game that is a football transfer, it seems one man holds more aces than most, his name is Jorge Mendes.
The Portuguese “super agent” has negotiated transfer deals worth more than £1bn over the course of his 18 year career; with a typical commission of 10% of the transfer fee so you don’t need me to do that maths for you. He was instrumental in taking Falcao and Angel Di Maria to Manchester United, and this summer will be no different. His Gestifute agency will be at the centre of the biggest deals, involving the biggest and most high profile clubs and players. But make no mistake, he is not alone.
Football is now big business and will only get bigger, and what’s becoming clearer by the day is, in the new football jungle, agents may be the apex predators. After the huge shop window that is the European Championships, this summer promises to be a classic where many elite level players move across Europe.
Multiple agencies, operating across multiple territories negotiating over half a BILLION POUNDS in potential transfer fees, all in service of the one thing that makes this world go around…the almighty dollar!
Recent research by the European Club’s Association (ECA) concluded that on average 14.6% of all money paid in transfers goes to agents.
“Clearly there’s a lot of money going to agents and we as clubs are part of the problem but there are some unusual pressures in the system particularly when you are dealing across jurisdictions that means agents have a significant degree of leverage”
The lack of any significant oversight means that conflicts of interest are common place. Agents can work for both parties in a transaction without crossing legal boundaries. Murkier still are the rules surrounding 3rd party ownership. This article by The Guardian is extremely well written and does an excellent job in explaining a lot of the problems with this issue.
If you had dreams of your child growing up to be the next big footballer, and you’ve realised that’s a pipe dream then all is not lost…
“A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns” – Vito Corleone.
There you have it, life lessons from Don Corleone himself. So if you need to dominate life, then keep calm, and send your child to law school. Their careers will be longer and probably more lucrative