Manchester United and Mino Raiola’s recent spat has told us a lot about what’s wrong with football at this current moment in time.
The over-financialization, the fast-inflating transfer fees, the growing power of the players, the increasing number of transfers, among many other issues, are, at their core, because of agents, especially super-agents such as the aforementioned Raiola and Jorge Mendes, among others.
To understand the mechanics of the entire situation, we have to look at what exactly it is that agents do. How exactly do agents make money? Initially, their major source of income was the players themselves; agents were paid to do the things the players themselves didn’t have the time for; the commercial contracts with sports brands, the sponsorships, the advertisements, the public appearances, and the legalities and technicalities of contracts. They were never the players’ spokespersons like they’ve become now. Initially (and for some players today as well), they’d just be friends and family who knew something about contracts.
Today, however, it’s a bit different. We now have so-called ‘agency firms’ which have ‘stables’ of players who they represent. It’s shocking that it’s even a legitimate business! With the increased amounts of money that clubs are rolling in from the television and kit deals, these ‘agency firms’ have managed to monetise player transfers.
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Although there are very few legitimate numbers (again, it’s a shocking amount of opacity considering the amounts of money flowing around), I’m pretty sure that the payments that agents manage to extract from clubs have become their main source of income, considering the number of players that they have in their so-called ‘stables’.
The well-publicised figure of £41 million that Mino Raiola made from the transfer of Paul Pogba from Juventus to Manchester United is mind-bogglingly crazy! The entire transfer was worth £89 million, so he made almost 50 percent!
Let’s say he has a 20 percent cut from each transfer he makes (a rather conservative estimate, at that); with super agents like Mino (and the caliber of players he has), that’s likely to be something like £10 million per player! Why wouldn’t an agent want more and more transfers?
Let’s look at the way in which super-agents make transfers happen.
With super-agents, there will always be buyers for their players, carefully cultivated and maintained by the agent through their network of contacts within big clubs. Now, let’s say that the agent wants another payday to pay for an island in the Caribbean.
What they’ll first do is get into the player’s head; make sure they want out. Once that’s happened, they’ll sow discord between the club and the player, making the relationship toxic, so that even if there is a contract between the two, neither will want to honor it.
This comes in the form of well-placed snippets in the media, like ‘the project at the club isn’t going anywhere’, or the player ‘wants a new challenge’. Meanwhile, they’ll also talk up the market for the player, so as to ensure a bidding war once the club agrees to sell.
Agents make their living out of unserved contracts. They only get a cut from the transfer fee when there is one, right? After all, the agent of a player who stays at the same club their entire career isn’t gonna make a lot of money (look at Messi, have you ever heard even a snippet about any super-agents around him?).
Loyalty and love for the clubs are concepts alien to super-agents. Before long, we’ll begin to see ‘fees’ paid to agents so that they ensure the player stays at the club (I wouldn’t be surprised if this is already happening!)
That’s why I believe that agents, especially super-agents like Raiola, must be regulated. The negative incentives associated with transfers before contracts end must stop. The breakdown of the transfer fees must be publicized, or at least there must be a regulating body which is made aware of them. Agent fees must be capped; ideally, I’d say that they should be zero, but for the sake of argument, let’s say they should be capped at 5% of transfer fees (which is still a lot considering the sizes of transfer fees for super-agents). Agency firms should have to publish reports after each transfer, and annual reports of any income and expenditure they are making.
This nonsense with agents must stop. They’re distracting us from the beautiful game that is football. I want agents go back to what they were originally for; the lackeys who did everything else for footballers so that the footballers could focus on the football. And Manchester United could focus on Manchester United.
What do you think should be done about super agents?