Whenever it’s the girlfriend’s birthday I’m faced with the same dilemma- do I get her the Terry’s All Gold or the flowers from the petrol station forecourt? It’s a conundrum that takes literally seconds to ponder- I usually go with the All Gold as despite her saying otherwise I know she appreciates them. When Cristiano Ronaldo decided to buy his agent Jorge Mendes a wedding present, he wasn’t making any last minute trips to the local Esso- other petrol stations are available etc, no, CR7 decided to get Mendes probably the only thing missing from the super agent’s glamorous life- his own private island. Ronaldo who was best man at the all-conquering agent’s wedding splashed out on a small Greek island for the man who’s helped make him one of the richest sports stars in the history of the universe.
The days of footballer’s moonlighting as plasterers to make ends meet are long gone and in the modern era your star striker is more likely to own half the houses you drive past on your way to work than be offering an estimate to sort out the skimming on their walls. Footballers command ridiculous fees, transfers and demands and the men that earn ten percent of that are the new superpowers in world football. In the same way the likes of Bob Arum and Don King have controlled boxing over the past few decades we’re getting to the point where men like Mendes, Kia Joorabchian and Mino Raiola can make or break not just a player’s career but also a team’s season or a manager’s employment status.
One of the failings of Sir Alex Ferguson as football moved from the days of the ‘hairdryer treatment’ to the times of alice band was that the former United boss couldn’t cope with the power agents now held. To Fergie an agent was someone who did as the club told him and simply relayed information to his client, not someone who held all the cards when it came to negotiations.
In his latest book ‘Leading’ Ferguson speaks about the time it came to trying to negotiate a deal to keep Paul Pogba at the club:
“Agents have become like tsetse flies…there are one or two agents I simply do not like and Mino Raiola, Paul Pogba’s agent, is one of them. He and I were like oil and water.”
It’s well documented what happened with Pogba at United and while it’s understandable that Sir Alex wasn’t too pally with someone who was making demands he felt were unreasonable, it could end up costing the Reds somewhere in the region of £100 million. It’s not just Pogba that Raiola represents, the agent made his name by signing an 18 year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic to his agency and should United want the Swedish star, they’re going to have to go through Raiola. Dortmund’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan is another player being touted as a potential United recruit and guess who is agent is? Eric Hall. Only kidding, it’s Raiola – obviously.
The irony is United finally have a manager represented by Mendes which you imagine would make life easier when dealing with him over potential transfers, but for once it’s a different agent’s players the Reds covet. Mourinho may have a touch of the oldskool about him when it comes to management, but he’s much more used to dealing with agents than Sir Alex and hopefully from a United point of view won’t let personality get in the way of making the deals he needs to move the club forward.
Raiola isn’t stupid, despite what Sir Alex may think and he’s well versed in the art of playing the media game to get his player a better deal, or force clubs to act quickly, like Mendes, certain journalists seem willing to publish stories that only benefit the agent and his players rather than their readers. Over the next few weeks we can expect a lot more reports of players associated with Raiola coming to Old Trafford.
Dealing with ‘super agents’ is part of modern day football and whether Mourinho ends up buying Raiola any thank you presents remains to be seen, but if he does, I know a local newsagents that does a great line in Terry’s All Gold.