In the week that Charlie Watts passed, some sympathy for the devil. Plainly, Mino Raiola’s demands for taking Erland Haaland to Chelsea were ridiculous.
According to reports in Germany, he wanted a £34million cut, plus an annual retainer worth £2m per year, and the player’s wages were coming in at £820,000 per week. It added up to roughly £275m, without the transfer fee.
Chelsea said no and bought Romelu Lukaku instead.
Harry Kane thought he was on the verge of a move to Manchester City only for it all to fall apart
Ballpark estimates set the cost of his deal at roughly £215m, including Inter Milan’s £93m, but without factoring in payment to his agent Federico Pastorello — and he will undoubtedly be rewarded because nothing happens unless the representative gets his share.
Of course, it looks obscene. Tens of millions leaking from the game so a player can join a club he desires and that desires him. What do they actually do, these guys? This is where the sympathy comes in.
Here’s what they do. They stop transfers ending up like Harry Kane’s to Manchester City. Let’s say Raiola had been in the middle there. Might he have found a way of brokering the deal so both sides thought they had won?
A price that was not quite the £150m Tottenham wanted, but certainly more than the £120m City were prepared to pay.
Maybe some City players that were worth having could have sweetened the deal. Surely whoever pulled that off would be worth City’s spare, even if it amounted to tens of millions.
It is usually at this point that the chairman of Accrington Stanley, or a club in the lower echelons, compares agents fees with the money it would take to keep Rochdale going. Apples and oranges.
The owner of the local corner shop might as well complain about his struggle to pay rising high street rates in the context of Tesco’s marketing budget. The sport is the same but the business models are unrecognisable.
A ‘super agent’ like Mino Raiola would have made the situation ugly but got things done
Agents fees will always be a terrible look for football but at the elite level they serve a purpose.
Lacking professional guidance, Kane played his hand poorly. Daniel Levy has come out looking like the arch-negotiator, although we’ll see about that.
A Tottenham team with Kane in it ended up in the UEFA Conference League. Tottenham teams featuring Kane are yet to win a trophy across 10 seasons.
He’s 28, increasingly vulnerable to injury, and has played less than 30 Premier League games in two of his last three seasons.
As brilliant as Kane was in 2020-21, there is an argument that a price existed at which selling to rebuild might appeal. Just that no one found it, offered it, or was in a position to consider it.
And that’s what agents do. They connect the clubs, then they connect the player. Next summer, when Haaland will inevitably move, he is going to have a choice of destinations. And his agent will advise on the best one.
That steer is worth money to the successful suitor, particularly if it isn’t an obvious fit. The year Raiola turned Paul Pogba towards Old Trafford, Manchester United weren’t even a Champions League club.
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy played hardball and insisted that Kane would not be sold
Equally when Fernando Felicevich persuaded Alexis Sanchez to go there and not to Manchester City, in 2018, he is believed to have received upwards of £10m. Yet City were the superior destination.
Sanchez knew the manager, Pep Guardiola, and City were a better, more successful club with better prospects, as has been proved.
So, was Felicevich’s counsel worth £10m to United? Of course it was.
Sadly, it was a deal that did not age well but that’s not Felicevich’s fault. He had a commodity and Manchester United strongly believed in the worth and potential of that commodity. Few suspected how big a disappointment Sanchez would be. And Felicevich is not alone.
Manchester City also lost out to United over Fred and Harry Maguire. In each of those deals an agent was guiding the buying clubs on what to bid to win the battle, speaking to the interested parties, keeping busy. These guys don’t just let events unfold, they make them happen.
True, plenty of players with professional representation have tried and failed to get out of Tottenham under Levy. Yet there was something of the innocent abroad about Kane’s negotiation.
The England captain will now remain at Spurs and featured in midweek European action
From the start, with the hope that what was always going to be a complex transaction could be completed in a matter of weeks prior to the European Championship, the naivety was painful.
There have always been family representatives, but it was different when Neville Neville went in to discuss his son Gary’s next deal at Manchester United.
Gary just wanted to play for Manchester United, and the club wanted him at right back. Neville senior said nothing ever took more than 10 minutes.
Had he been trying to finesse a move to another English club, however — because the suggestion is Levy was always more receptive to selling Kane abroad — that might have needed a harder-nosed presence.
Equally, it can be difficult for clubs to deal with family members. Agents might be more realistic about their clients’ potential.
They will know, for instance, that a midfielder who is not a prolific goalscorer is never going to fetch the same money as Raheem Sterling.
A parent might not see that. At the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the press and the players’ families ended up staying in the same hotel in Baden-Baden.
What quickly became apparent was that the wives and girlfriends didn’t really care what was written about the football, as long as the paparazzi shots looked all right on the features pages.
Parents, however, were waiting hatchet-faced in the breakfast room, if junior dropped to six out of 10. Parents won’t always hear what you’re saying and often don’t want to.
Erling Haaland has his affairs handled by Raiola and will get a blockbuster move next summer
So Kane didn’t get his way this summer — and it can be argued neither did Raiola’s man Haaland.
Except we know 2022 is shaping up as Haaland’s year. The moment Borussia Dortmund sold Jadon Sancho it made it unlikely Haaland would follow.
Maybe Raiola was just laying down a marker with Chelsea, establishing the going rate for 12 months’ time if he can manufacture a bidding war between the elite of England and Spain.
For Kane? It’s going to be difficult. Chelsea have done their business, maybe Real Madrid too if they land Kylian Mbappe.
And with Haaland available, or Robert Lewandowski, Kane may even be third cab off the rank in 2022. If Tottenham could not get £150m now, after a season in which Kane was the Premier League’s top goalscorer and goal creator, why would that change?
The market might not be there, or the equivalent fee. This was the summer of Kane and it just needed someone to fit the pieces together.
And that someone would have been worth the coin, no matter how diabolical that may appear in black and white.
We’d all love to be as ‘skint’ as Madrid
Real Madrid have made a £145million bid for Kylian Mbappe.
They must have a different definition of the word skint in Spain, to the one your bank manager might use.
Real Madrid have pleaded poverty yet at the same time put a huge Kylian Mbappe bid forward
Why invent a racism storm?
To some, Tottenham are the Lilywhites, because they play in a white strip. So, too, are Preston North End, Berkhamstead Town, Cambridge City, Bromley, Faversham, Leyton, Mossley, Rhyl, Dundalk and Kildare, a Gaelic Football team.
Yet nobody thinks racial connotations. It’s the shirts, not the skins that are white. There are plenty of black Lilywhites, in the stands and on the team. It is no more literal than being a Gunner. You don’t actually need a licence.
So there appears to be some over-sensitivity in the move to change the nickname of the New Zealand football team: the All Whites.
The All Blacks name has been long since associated with New Zealand at all sporting levels
For a start it ignores the context provided by a renowned rugby XV from the same country, the All Blacks. Pretty much everything is black and white in New Zealand. The men’s cricket team are the Black Caps, the women are the White Ferns.
The hockey team are the Black Sticks, the netball team the Silver Ferns. And New Zealand’s whites cannot wear black because FIFA reserves that colour for referees. This seems the most confected of controversies.
Cottee wrong to back bid
Tony Cottee says he wants the best for West Ham. So why is he backing a disruptive takeover campaign by Azerbaijani venture capitalists, just at the time when his club are making progress?
West Ham are preparing for a European campaign, having secured maximum points from two games, scoring eight goals in the process.
The atmosphere at the London Stadium on Monday was magnificent, arguably the best it has been. What sort of West Ham fan wishes to derail that?
West Ham is Cottee’s club, and the fans like him. It does not help, however, that he talks as if a PAI Capital takeover would be a good development for him, financially, too.
Cottee says he will be in employment — and would hope to be rewarded accordingly — were PAI Capital to take control.
West Ham legend Tony Cottee’s backing of a disruptive takeover campaign by Azerbaijani venture capitalists has not gone down very well
‘I can confirm I will be part of the club and working full time,’ he said. ‘Fans are often the last ones to hear about the big decisions so I want to serve as a liaison to the fans.’ Cottee also says he enjoyed ‘detailed discussions’ with PAI lately.
So can he shed light on any big decisions, like how much money they have got or what they plan to do with the club if they get through the door? Apparently not. Some liaison.
So all there is to go on is consortium member Phil Beard’s vision of the future. Beard, the architect of modern Queens Park Rangers, said that the more money PAI needed to spend buying the club, the less it would have to buy players.
In other words, PAI will be using West Ham’s transfer budget to purchase West Ham. The liaison can no doubt fill the fans in on how fabulously that works, once the cheque clears.
Can demob Pep still fire City?
And now the good news. Nothing is for ever. Pep Guardiola will leave Manchester City at the end of the 2022-23 season when his present contract expires.
We’ll miss him, and his football, but that is how the game evolves. Manchester City now have the task of replacing him and they may not get it right.
Of course, it can be argued that every City manager since Mark Hughes has won the league. The spending power of Sheik Mansour makes transition a lot easier.
Yet Manchester United have money, too, and are still waiting for their first title since Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down. And every Liverpool manager from 1959 to 1991 won the league and then none until Jurgen Klopp arrived. Succession is difficult.
Before Thomas Tuchel, Roman Abramovich had appointed five Chelsea managers who became champions, and five who did not.
Pep Guardiola has confirmed he will leave Manchester City at the end of the 2022-23 season
Then there is the prospect of Guardiola working his notice. Even Ferguson found that his players lost their intensity when they thought he was leaving at the end of the 2002 season.
That is why his second retirement — the one he actually went through with — was revealed only after Manchester United had won the 2012-13 title.
Next season, everyone at Manchester City will know Guardiola is going. Inevitably, motivation could drop.
So after much talk of City dominating for years, this is the reality. They didn’t get Harry Kane — which is good for football because it leaves them with work to do — and very soon they won’t have Guardiola either. That’s tough.
Ask United if they thought they would go eight years without a league championship, or Liverpool if they thought they would go 30.
British relay team must accept their fate
Zharnel Hughes, a member of Great Britain’s 4x100metre relay team, whose silver medal is threatened by CJ Ujah’s positive test, says he hopes his team-mate will get a fair hearing.
What is the issue? Ujah was provisionally suspended after testing positive for Ostarine and S-23, two selective androgen receptor modulators that aid muscle-building.
He claims not to have cheated and will request an analysis of a B sample. If that also returns positive, the case will be forwarded to the Anti-Doping Division of the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Sprinter CJ Ujah was provisionally suspended after testing positive for Ostarine and S-23
Even if Ujah was to successfully blame a contaminated supplement, Team GB would still be held responsible under rules that govern athlete liability. Unless Ujah is entirely exonerated, therefore, it is very hard to see how the relay team can keep their medals.
So what does Hughes think is unfair or unjust? So far, there has only been strict adherence to process.
Hughes says he believes in clean sport and fair competition. If so, he will also know that, were Ujah guilty, the only course of action would be to disqualify his team.