In the third instalment of ‘Why The Transfer Market Has Gone Mad’ , Mark Maher from Cmon U R’s discusses ‘super-agents’ and the effect that they have had on modern-day football.
Not just any agents, these “super agents” are known to acquire the best possible deals for their clients. This causes some of the best footballing talent around the globe to snap them up when they are trying to negotiate with either their own clubs or a move elsewhere. First up is Mino Raiola – who has superstars such as Zlatan Ibrahimovich and Mario Balotelli under his wing, and he’s known to drive a hard bargain when negotiating with clubs. It’s no surprise that he was instrumental in the departure of Paul Pogba from Manchester United to Juventus. Allegedly holding Manchester United to ransom for the protégé over a massive contract increase, he touted the player all over Europe for the best possible deal when United played hard ball. With the club reluctant to meet his wage demands, and knowing his contract expired in the summer, Raiola knew that although Ferguson had high hopes for the player, he could get a better deal elsewhere. Up steps Juventus, willing to offer a mega bucks deal with Raiola getting a hefty signing on fee.
Pogba is certainly making his mark at Juventus – he has scored four goals in 19 appearances this season. On his time at his former club he claims “Maybe Ferguson will regret it now but I don’t think about Manchester United any more. I have no regrets about leaving Manchester, none at all.”
Ferguson was livid that such a prospect could show a lack of respect and had the audacity to reject a substantial contract improvement for someone so young. He was also furious at the way Raiola handled the situation claiming “Pogba signed for Juventus a long time ago as far as we’re aware of, which is disappointing,” he told MUTV. “I don’t think he showed us any respect at all so, to be honest, I’m quite happy that if they carry on that way, they’re probably better doing it away from us.”
Raiola is a shrewd businessman who is only interested from making as much money as possible from a deal regardless of the happiness of a player. In 2000, he proposed a business strategy to Ajax and in return became the agent for Ibrahimovic, Mido, Maxwell and Grygera. After masterminding a €16 million deal for Ibrahimovic to Juventus, it became clear that he would put his own interests ahead of the clubs by persuading Maxwell and Grygera to leave on a free transfer – so he would benefit from potentially lucrative signing on fee’s. This led to Ajax cutting ties with the agent.
After securing the big money move of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s to Paris Saint-Germain, he stated his belief that it’s about time his client Marek Hamsik began thinking big too. He claims Hamsik, who is an integral part of the Napoli side currently 2nd in Serie A, shouldn’t care if he’s happy at the club claiming it’s not all about happiness. “I think that PSG want Hamsik, but Marek is a special guy, someone who has a life philosophy which I respect but don’t agree with.” After Hamsik made it clear yet again that he’s happy with life in Naples and with his football at Napoli, the agent responded, “A player must never give up on bettering himself and finding new motivation. Who pledges loyalty is someone who doesn’t want to progress. Look at Francesco Totti, what sense is there in a champion playing all of his career for the same club?”
This shows that these type of agent’s do not care about their client’s happiness and only look out for the best deals possible for themselves.
Credited as football’s first “super agent”, Pini Zahavi’s no ordinary agent as he’s often involved in bringing both players and managers to clubs while also often paid to even scout players. A former journalist, he’s considered an ally to Roman Abramovich and was central in the Russian tycoon’s acquisition of the club in 2003. It’s been reported that Zahavi earned over £5 million out of the £110 million spent on transfers that summer.
During the early 90’s at a time when it was harder to scout European players, he credits himself as a “game changer” for the Premier League and in an interview with The Guardian, he states that ”there were managers who did not know anything about European players. You couldn’t even find the results of European leagues in the papers. It was a desert island and they couldn’t care less about the world game. I was able to help change attitudes.”
A controversial figure, he’s been accused of paying Graeme Souness £30,000 back in 1995 as part of Avi Cohen’s move to Rangers – although these claims have never been proven. He was also accused of tapping up Ashley Cole before his move to Chelsea in 2005, but the Premier League decided not to take action after a full investigation.
Although he can be credited as helping the Premier League evolve to arguably the best in the world, these types of transfer dealings have led to a lack of loyalty in the game, where agents badly advise their clients into getting the best deal possible – with players often waiting until their contracts are up so that the club will receive nothing yet the player will get a substantial signing on fee.
A recent example of this, is Peter Odemwingie’s decision to drive to London on transfer deadline day without permission from his club (West Brom) in order to force a move to Queens Park Rangers. Both Harry Redknapp and Steve Clarke have claimed that the player must have been ill advised by his agent, claiming that although Odemwingie is a genuinely decent guy – his agent was no doubt pressuring him into a mega bucks deal.
Last but not least is Kia Joorabchian. Although not a licenced agent, he is an “adviser” who’s also an investment manager involving “third party” ownership of players. In 2004, Kia founded “Media Sports Investments” and after failing to takeover Arsenal, he decided to make partnership with Brazilian club Corinthians – after being recommended by his friend Pini Zahavi (surprise surprise.) Major signings followed including the capture of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano and in it’s first year they increased revenue by 500%. By 2005, Corinthians had won their fourth Brazilian title.
However, a money laundering scandal led to a warrant for Joorabchian’s arrest and by 2007 Corinthians broke off their association with MSI. As these players were in fact owned by MSI and not Corinthians, it left the club with only 5 players and both Tevez and Macherano left for West Ham United – which would lead to one of the biggest transfer scandals in Premier League history.
Although he had now stepped down from MSI, he still retained an investment in the duo and let Zahavi assist in their transfers to the London club. In April 2007 West Ham were fined a record £5.5 million by the Premier League for entering into third-party contracts whose existence they did not reveal in the knowledge that, in the words of the Premier League’s findings, “the FAPL at the very least may not – and in all probability would not – have approved of such contracts”. When Tévez was instrumental in West Ham’s avoiding relegation at the end of the 2006-7 season the position was legally challenged by the relegated club, Sheffield United, on the ground that Tévez should have been ineligible to play. The claim was eventually settled out of court in March 2009 with West Ham paying Sheffield United £20 million over five years.
For better or worse, there’s no denying that these “super agents” have helped transform the Premier League, and they have definitely contributed to a change in the transfer market in world football.