I get that David Beckham is one of the wealthiest players in the game. I get that he can retire somewhere quietly and just sit back for the rest of his days. But one of the biggest reasons to applaud the midfielder is his latest gesture that all of his wages (or at least a large percentage of it) will go to charity. Above all, this is just a guy who seems like he wants to remain in the game, but has now made an exceptional move for his status and image in football.
The other more hideous side of the game is David Sullivan’s revelation of the behaviour of player agents.
Now, wages has taken the game (and many other sports) onto a completely different level, and one that is certainly out of reach for most fans. But the modern game doesn’t get more damning than reports of agents wanting to put someone’s head through a wall for the sake of their own benefit.
At some point or another. No, scratch that. In the very near future, the prominent football governing bodies need to take a stand against the vultures and the “gang warfare,” as Harry Redknapp described it, in football. It’s well enough for FIFA and UEFA to talk about moving the game forward, taking big international tournaments to less developed parts of the world and attempting to stamp their authority on heavy spending. But the fees that agents go after all ties into Financial Fair Play, so why is that particular side of the game seemingly ignored by most with the power to stop it?
And here’s the other thing: when do footballers in general start to take some flak for the actions of agents? Most footballers are off in their own world, like Prince, asking for a camel at 3am in the middle of January. We get that, people have been taken away from reality due to the vast sums of money in the game. But are the majority of footballers that stupid that they don’t understand how damaging their agents are to the game?
Well, the defence will be that footballers are looking out for number one and will of course back their agents as a means of getting the highest possible pay packet. And in fairness, we can probably place as much blame for the wages in football today at the feet of agents as we do with broadcasters like Sky. But Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Radamel Falcao, and players of that stature in football are always going to receive the highest wages wherever they go. Men in football like Pep Guardiola don’t need agents to negotiate the best deal for them; all the former Barcelona manager has to do is turn up at any club in the world and he’ll be given what he wants, on the basis of what he achieved in Spain. So, while agents are important, they’re not absolutely crucial.
But you hear of stories about agents getting a cut of any high-profile deal and wonder what exactly we’re watching. Yes it’s sports, but it’s creeping slowly into the realm of sports entertainment. Let’s have the next FA Cup final contested inside the confines of a huge steel cage—I’m sure that will help to peak interest.
But why is that we talk about people like Jorge Mendes? Why do we need to know the name of an agent and the list of his clients at major European clubs? Why have governing bodies allowed people like him to overshadow certain areas and athletes in the game? It’s wave after wave of questions that need to be put forward, and yet we may never know the answers or have the problems removed.
You can take Arsenal as an example and the influence Darren Dein has had at the club. David Dein would be welcomed back with open arms and the red carpet by most supporters, but his son is public enemy number one, largely for engineering the moves away of players like Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song, among others.
So you’d ask, why would the son of a man who had such an effect on Arsenal go about dismantling the good work laid down in previous years? Money, obviously. I’m quite certain that Darren Dein has absolutely no interest in whether Barcelona win the Champions League this season and hit Real Madrid for six on the way to doing so. Nor do I believe that he’s particularly concerned if Arsenal finish well outside the top four due in part to his own fine work. But he does care that names like Fabregas and van Persie will be the centrepiece of a transfer window and will offer the opportunity for a couple of million to line his pockets.
Again, you’ve got to wonder how much players actually believe in what they’re saying. They talk about trophies and the glory of certain competitions and even the stupidity over which position they’ll play. But it’s all just a mask for the desire for more money, which of course stems from the agent.
I don’t believe any club wants to spend £50 million in combined fees for a player, but that’s what football has come to. If UEFA are taking on this militant level of thinking for financial fair play, then they must look to the source. I understand that footballers and most other athletes only have a short career where they need to earn as much as possible, but does that excuse the need to pay someone £180,000 a week for being quite good at making a 30 yard pass? It will never be acceptable.
David Sullivan’s story is about as low as you can get in football, and that particular agent has some fine company at the bottom of the pit.