Speaking on behalf of the Devil

by The Supercoach on May 29, 2012

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We’ve hit the end of the season, which means that the transfer window will soon open again, bringing with it an endless trawl of internet stories about potential moves. Often these stories have little fact within them and there is no evidence backing up the wild claims. That is irrelevant though, especially to the numerous people who put an entry into the comments section, stating their belief on which player, or players, a club should sign.

It would be interesting to see just how many of these rumours turn into reality. My guess is not many.

Another topic that is becoming increasingly hot is the role of player agents in transfers. The most recent one is that of agent Mino Raiola, who represents Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba.

Pogba is subject to rumours linking him to Juventus, as well as a number of other suitors, as his contract winds down. This is not a new story, a young player, unable to break into to the starting XI at his current club, seeks a move elsewhere for more playing time and money.

What makes this story different is the role of Raiola, who is rumoured to make £1.7million if the transfer goes through, while Manchester United will only make £300,000 in compensation from Juventus.

Many Manchester United fans are outraged by this, claiming that the agent is more interested in making a dollar than looking after the best interests of the player. They believe that their club is the best place for Pogba and that a move to Italy will be bad for his career and growth as a player.

This has led to renewed criticism of player agents as the reason that football has been ruined and the spiralling costs of players, both in terms of transfer fees and wages.

I can’t help but disagree.

The first problem is that fans cannot be objective when looking at issues like this. Their attachment to their club means that they will always think that their club is the best place for a young player, unless he’s rubbish and then he should be shipped off.

I want to do a bit of impartial analysis of the situation.

Pogba is French, and joined Manchester United aged 16 from French club Le Havre. He is not a native product by any stretch of the imagination and most certainly did not grow up going to matches at Old Trafford. We’re not talking about a local lad playing for his local team.

Additionally, he’s a professional footballer, which means that his career could be over in a single twist, tackle or fall. He is not in a profession where he can perform his tasks after an accident. He has every right to attempt to maximise his earnings while he can.

Finally, everyone seems to think that clubs are these altruistic organisations that can do no wrong. The simple fact is that football clubs are businesses whose primary responsibility is to the owner or shareholders. Clubs want to have the strongest squad possible, yet pay them as little as possible to keep them there. It is completely conceivable that a club would sign a player knowing that they would be a squad player lucky to make the bench on game day, let alone play.

Now I’m not saying that all agents are saints either. I’m sure that some of them have engineered moves for their clients that were not necessarily beneficial for the player in the short or long term.

What I am saying is that they serve a necessary purpose in the world of football.

Most footballers are signed to clubs and academies before they are 18, without a completed education and with only their families and friends to advise them. They need someone with experience in the industry to look after their best interests, which don’t always align with the best interests of the club.

The other point that I feel needs to be made is this: for every Paul Pogba, how many youngsters are struggling to become professional footballers in the lower echelons of football around the world? In these circumstances, agents help these youngsters in not committing to a poor deal, but can help a player noticed and organise trail periods due to their links with clubs.

Let me ask you this, if a competitor to your current place of employment offered you the same job with better pay, would you take it? If they were available, would you hire an individual or company to help you get the highest possible salary?

My guess is that most people would answer yes to those questions.