The shadowy world of the football agent is one that is cloaked in secrecy amid accusations of greed. Thankfully, we've got one of the good guys on board to lift the lid on what life really is like at the sharp end of a notoriously cut throat business.
By Secret Agent - Follow me on Twitter @SSSecretAgent. Last Updated: July 23, 2012 9:47am
Lifting the lid on football's dark arts
I think we can safely say the transfer window is well and truly open. Although a recent report from FIFA confirmed the overall amounts paid for players has dropped in recent years, I suspect it will nonetheless be a busy summer in terms of fees exchanging hands.
An influx of new owners, when coupled with an even bigger pot of money coming in from the new Premier League broadcasting rights, threatens to ignite what has at times been a stagnant market. Here's hoping.
With Reading's Russian owners splashing the cash (Pavel Pogrebnyak won't be on peanuts), Watford attempting to assemble the world's best veteran team and Nottingham Forest awash with petrol dollars, bold takeovers and serious spending are seemingly very much back in vogue. When you add new money to the old established order it makes for interesting times and potentially a buoyant summer window.
I won't deny that I've rubbed my hands at the thought of Russian Ruble flooding the market. As for Watford's new moneymen - I've heard about how Italian football club owners like to party so count me in. Bunga bunga! I've been hammering my LinkedIn this week to try and join the dots and get myself an in with all the aforementioned. The local pizza guy follows me on Twitter but I'm not sure he's connected to anyone at Vicarage Road. I'll probably DM him just in case.
I've got a list of players longer than a Greek dole queue that I could send across to these clubs. I won't be the only agent thinking the same.
That said, putting my football fan hat on (it just about still fits), I really do hope that these clubs don't just bring in the same old players, on the same old ridiculous wages. You can guess half the names that will be touted to any cash-rich club and the reality is that while they might be 'stars', they often carry more baggage than Judith Chalmers. When you scrutinise their CVs further, they really aren't all that. I won't mention any names but they're the playing equivalent of Sven.
While on the subject of money for old rope, I've been working with a well-known Eastern European ex-international striker. He's slightly past his prime but by no means shot in terms of scoring goals at a decent level. I had a very good offer from Turkey for this player, who until my intervention had the square root of nothing on the table. The figure quoted for his basic salary was half a million euros - tax free! It's not Zlatan money but he wouldn't go short.
To us mere mortals we'd be packing our bags before we'd even got onto the topic of a goal bonus. At the very least I expected a 'Danka' (or whatever 'thank you' is in said Eastern European tongue) for my efforts. The response I got was only one consonant off but not quite what I was looking for.
When I relayed the message back to the buying club they laughed, before calling him a greedy bar-steward (the line was crackly) and added he was just 'one fish in a sea of ageing strikers'. I had to agree and promptly gave him a list of more adequate hit-men to choose from!
I find it baffling that a player clearly on the downward slope of his career, without a club and destined to spend more time next season on the couch than the pitch, wouldn't even consider an offer below a cool million.
He'll be back on the blower come the middle of August I guarantee it.
Even back in the real world of football in the lower leagues, players are passing up opportunities of decent employment. Down in Leagues One and Two there are still lads who think they can hold clubs to ransom. Many are of the opinion that a fleeting encounter with life at a Premier League outfit, where they played 15 minutes of a League Cup game, is enough to see them right. I remind them of what Andy Warhol had to say on the matter but art appreciation tends to be pretty minimal in Stevenage.
I've been writing these blogs for a year now and not a lot has changed in terms of players thinking football is a free ride. The game is rife with average players who believe they are good enough to expect a contract each and every year, come rain or shine, and often on money that is frankly laughable in such austere times.
In addition to these out of touch players I've had to tell a couple of my lads that I'm calling time on our representation agreement. It's not through any bitterness or greed I've arrived at this decision but rather due to the fact I've reached the end of the road in terms of having to regularly explain to these guys that they need to be putting in 100 per cent every day. As for sucking it up when their manager wants more out of them, that's another broken - expletive - record.
Players still don't see the bigger picture. I put my reputation on the line to find them a club and the same thing happens season after season. It's like Groundhog Day - except I don't end up with Andie MacDowell.
It normally goes along the lines of: "Sorry lad, I've tried everything I can. You either fight or flight and you're too much about the latter. There are only so many times I'm prepared to bang my head against the brick wall for you. Goodbye and good luck."
Of course there are players who don't seem to get any luck despite always training and working hard. No matter what they do their face never fits. These lads are worth sticking by in the hope that at the next club you find them, they get their chance and away they go.
So far this season I've had one player trial at a club successfully, while I wait on another. Both lads have a superb attitude which is just as important as how good a player they are. Certainly at the level they're at anyway. When you find a player who has a mix of both ability and application, that's when you've struck gold! Sometimes I envy those agencies that don't micro-manage players in the manner that I do. They simply broker deals for clubs or players during the transfer windows, make their commission and then kick back. In between the two windows it's all about downtime in Puerto Banus or Cuba!
They never meet the players or their families, or have to act as chauffeur and social worker. The only communication they make is between the club and player to complete a deal. Don't get me wrong there's a lot of work involved in such negotiations, but there are none of the problems you get looking after a player full-time. Remember, in most cases you're not just managing talent but ego.
I apologise, I'm depressing myself now. To be honest, for all my moaning, I would miss that personal touch. There's nothing better than helping guide one of your players along the slippery path of the football world in the hope one day they'll be stepping out in front of 50,000 people.
It's a great feeling when it happens. As an agent there's not many bigger thrills than when a crowd applauds and sings the name of your player after he performs well on the pitch. It might be reflected glory but in a small way I feel I've played my part in such successes.
The sense of contentment at a job well done is why I love this job.
That's just about it for this week's blog but I thought I'd leave you with a taster of what I might be writing about next. I'm currently working on what would be the biggest deal of my career and while to date it's been fraught with difficulties, I still hold hope that this could be my Del Boy moment of finally cracking the big one.
I can't say too much as it's still at a very delicate stage but don't miss my next column as I could be penning it from somewhere very hot. Or alternatively, while sat in a rainy Morecambe cafe.
This time next year Rodney, this time next year...