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Is the excessive power of agents a troubling sign for the future of European football?

Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar

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Jorge Mendes has become a godfather to many Portuguese players who are on the lookout for a big move.

Mino Raiola’s recent explosive tweet in which he sarcastically thrashed Paul Scholes and urged Manchester United to "sell" his client Paul Pogba, sparked many rumours, but it also proved that the Dutch agent was on the hunt for another major pay-day. With business going slow for him this summer, it seems like Raiola wants to get back in the news using his elite client in the guise of the former Juventus talisman.

The FIFA World Cup winner has had a rocky relationship with manager Jose Mourinho in recent months and Raiola is using that to ensure another blockbuster move for him. Pogba himself seems to be convinced that a move to Barcelona can be the best for him (it could) and would help him further improve his own “brand” in the pantheon of global superstars.

But, trying to ensure that Pogba gets his move, Raiola is earning quite a horrible reputation with many thinking he’s doing it for the money. Raiola allegedly claimed £41m for Pogba’s big-money move from Juventus to United two years ago, something which landed him in trouble with FIFA. In reality, he got more money for himself than what many prominent players get for years of hard-work for their clubs.

While Raiola is an agent consistently in the limelight, some other prominent football agents have also racked up hefty fees in the past. Jonathan Barnett, a prominent agent, bagged around £34.27m in Gareth Bale’s then world-record move to Real Madrid from Tottenham Hotspur back in 2013. Pinhas Zahavi is another powerful agent who was influential in Roman Abramovich taking over Chelsea and also brokered deals for the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Didier Drogba and Petr Cech. A former Israeli military man, Zahavi earned quite a reputation for his work in managing world-record deals and also played a part in Neymar’s move to PSG last summer.

Over the years, Portuguese agent Jorge Mendes has built his client-base ranging from Cristiano Ronaldo to James Rodriguez

But arguably, the most powerful agent in world football right now has to be Jorge Mendes. The agent of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jose Mourinho and many other Portuguese stars, Mendes earned £30m alone in 2014 for brokering some big-money moves and is currently a big reason for a load of Portuguese players ending up at newly-promoted Premier League Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Mendes is an agent, who often stays in the shadows and makes sure his clients get their big-time moves every now and then. But, he’s racked up a lot of power in recent years and holds the cards of deciding which Portuguese player gets to go to which club and till when they are at that club. He’s almost like the Godfather for many up and coming Portuguese stars and is someone, clubs don't want in their bad books.

It was estimated that Premier League clubs paid  £211m in agent fee between 2017-2018 (before the summer transfer window), an increase of £37m from the previous year. This stark figure is an example of how harrowingly vast the agent fees are becoming, with the agent fee of a single big-money transfer being more than many small-time transfers in Europe. Football's governing bodies have tried curbing this, but to no avail, as the agents hold all the cards when it comes to making the "dream transfers" happen.

Not only are these agents the representatives of prominent players, but they are often like their own guardians when it comes to protecting them. The agents manage to form a bond with their clients, which often results in the players bowing to the wills of their agents. This emotional power over their clients helps the agents to often dictate transfers and has resulted in such an inflated market. Be it the Pogba deal a few years ago or the Neymar deal last season, both of them played their parts in starting a chain reaction, which has resulted in such an unstable, inflated transfer market.

It has come to the point where there’s no limit to transfer fees and ridiculously high figures ARE being brandished for relatively average players. The Neymar deal, in particular, kick-started a crazy chain reaction, which saw Ousmane Dembele being sold to Barcelona for over £135.5m and being named a “flop” despite having a relatively decent debut season, although he has made up for those unkept promises so far this term. It also saw Phillipe Coutinho moving to Barcelona for £142m from Liverpool, who in turn invested that money to sign the likes of Virgil Van Dijk, Fabinho, and Alisson.


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This crazy chain reaction will continue for a few years now and with the transfer-record once agai ready to explode quite soon, the market will just keep on inflating even higher in the next few years. The money-hungry agents are also making sure their clients have proper "retirement plans" towards the end of their careers, with many players moving to the Chinese Super League or the MLS in the latter part of their career. The former league has charmed in many players at the prime of their careers, with their agents being vital to making the deals happen.

Ousmane Dembele joined the list of pplayers to make mega-money moves following his transfer to Barcelona

The Chinese Super League may not have much attraction power, but the scent of money and the cunning and influential power of agents has helped the league land some of the world’s best.

The agents are often misusing their influence and ruining the good aspects of the sport. No longer do we see players like Ryan Giggs, Carles Puyol or Paulo Maldini who spent their whole career at one club and it’s because of the changing environment of the game that nobody will replicate the unbreakable loyalty of these legends. It’s because of the money-hungry nature of agents and their disillusioned clients that loyalty and purism in football are heading towards a slow, sad extinction.

Published: Wed Sep 05, 2018 05:39 PM IST

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