In an exclusive interview with Football FanCast, John Hartson spoke of the power agents have in football, suggesting that their huge influence in the game cannot be understated.
News this week broke regarding the future of West Ham’s Conor Coventry, whose future at the club could be in doubt over a stumbling block in relation to a proposed contract extension.
The issue is that the player reportedly wants a wage of £5k a week despite playing a grand total of 52 minutes for the senior team, and as a result the club and the player’s representatives are at an impasse.
It is a good example of what the former West Ham striker is referring too, but the fact the case is not an isolated one supports the view Hartson has of the significance of agents.
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Speaking exclusively to FFC, he said: “I think agents are running the game. Totally running the game. They’re controlling the young players, they’ve got massive relationships with the owners of football clubs. It works both ways as a club will use an agent to sell a player or to bring a player in.
“The agent will use the club to get their players big moves and big wages and transfer fees. The agents have so much power because they own the player.”
Sadly, Coventry isn’t the only example in recent times of a player’s agent trying to extend their powers.
Bobby Duncan, a bright prospect who started out at Manchester City before joining Liverpool, faced a similar scenario in the summer.
He felt aggrieved at a lack of playing time but his agent Saif Rubie took matters into his own hands by publishing an extraordinary statement on social media in which he accused the club of bullying Duncan and damaging his mental health by rejecting a transfer offer from Fiorentina, a move which was finalised a few days after the incident.
Hartson also speaks of agents being affiliated with the club, best evidenced by the relationship Jorge Mendes has with Wolves – his influence leading to a number of his clients joining the club and being responsible for their success in recent years, including Nuno Espirito Santo and Ruben Neves.
It is no longer only the top players who garner attention from agents, or even just professionals, with younger age groups now sought-after as clubs try to tie down the most promising talent early on.
“I know an agency who have smaller agents who go around watching U13s, U14s and U15s matches and approach the players on the side of the pitch, and eventually get those top players who come through,” added Hartson.
Nowadays it is not uncommon to see players under the age of 18 make transfers. Raheem Sterling is a high profile example of that having joined Liverpool at the age of 15 from QPR.
Chelsea’s recent transfer ban was also the result of illegally signing minors from foreign clubs, whilst Barcelona have been reprimanded for the same, and much of it is due to the involvement of agents.