Mourinho gets the balance wrong and agents fees under investigation

Good morning, quick post here.

I didn’t really get to watch much of the Tottenham-Man U match but on occasional glimpses I got to see Man U overrun in what I consider their now “typical” fashion. Mourinho has become a parody of himself, or maybe he’s become an imitation of himself.

What I mean is that Mourinho’s old teams were well organized and strong in defense. They could spend hours just defending but typically didn’t do that because they had such a potent attack that they took the game to the opponents. Every once in a while in a season, Mourinho would whip his team up into a frenzy and have them park the bus, defend for their lives, and usually pull off a win.

But now his teams are a parody of his other once-great sides, and he’s parking the bus 12 to 15 times a season. The players seem to have lost the flavor for it. His “organization” which was once his strong suit seems to have evaporated and he’s got players like Pogba running around thinking they are the next Aaron Ramsey.

The great organizer’s team is disorganized. The man who abhors errors has a team which makes errors constantly. And his team is now saved by the smallest sliver of de Gea. Mourinho spent nearly £300m on last night’s team and they look disorganized and unbalanced.

One last thing, Man U have been the poster child for agent’s excesses. One report had Pogba’s agent earning £40m for his role in the transfer of Paul Pogba to Man U. But there are reports now that UEFA and FIFA, along with the Premier League, want to limit agent’s fees and make their jobs more transparent.

Writing in the Guardian, David Conn said two things that I think were important:

“Ceferin said clubs tell him the approach of some agents is: “Look, you will pay me 50% of the transfer or the player goes somewhere else.””


“They can have greater influence over where a player ends up than the player or the clubs,” he said. “Their interest is not only where a player goes but which club will pay them the highest fee.”

We here at 7amkickoff have been saying these things for years and have been told that we are stupid or ill informed. It’s good to have these two facts confirmed: agents decide where a player will go and are extracting bribes to make transfers happen.

I’m not hopeful that FIFA and UEFA will actually stand up to corruption and bribes. They don’t really have much of a positive track record there.



  1. Uefa certainly don’t have a good record, but if the majority of clubs are pushing for it, they might act. ManU, ManCity, PSG and maybe Real, Chelsea, and Barca will be against it, but if the others want it, then they could probably get regulation through.

    Enforcement however…What’s going to be the punishment? And then you’d have the EU anti-competition court or some such to deal with after PSG pay their lawyers to allow them the right to pay agents what they want.

    Capping agent fees both in terms of percentage of transfer and absolute value, whichever is lower, would make it more transparent. Apart from player movements, it reduces the possibilities for money laundering through football. Which is why this won’t happen. Not in any meaningful way.

    1. I’m not so sure ManU, Citeh, PSG etc will be against this. Money is money at end of the day. Nobody wants to spend it if they don’t have to.

      1. But if that money gets them prime access to the top football talent? They run their clubs as advertisements for their other operations (Apart from ManU, but they have insane amounts of money and are more than happy to use it) I think they’d rather spend the extra 50m and keep their billion pound club and trillion dollar economy going strong.

        (Not to mention the scope of moving about funds that spending the money offers them)

    2. My initial thought is that Agents should be licensed, like housing agents, and then they could be capped at 2% of transactions or something.

      1. Aren’t agents already licensed? Immediate family members are the only exception to the requirement for a license as far as I know. Agents are meant to be registered with FIFA. Not sure if each country have their own licensing requirement or lack thereof.

          1. Oops. I didn’t see that link.

            Oh so FIFA stopped the registration system in 2015? I wonder what the justification offered for that was.

            I used to think it was known that agents could only represent one entity and hence could only be paid by the player. I assumed clubs got around it by paying the player who would then pay the agent. But it seems it’s worse than that. They can officially receive payments from all parties because there is no regulation. That is insane. But it fits into how football is regulated. Poorly.

          2. Clubs also employ agents to broker deals and find suitable players for clubs. So not only you have the players representation, oftentimes you have “consultants” of the club at the table as well.

  2. Thoughts from that game. Spurs were better than the final score suggested. At no time did United look like being able to get something out of it. It was a very comfortable win for Tottenham.

    Sanchez, anonymous. Forget fora minute that United are poor defensively. All that attacking talent on the field had no cohesion.

    He had Rashford warming up to come on when it was clear that his MIDFIELD was being overrun. An injury saved him from making a stupid sub.

    Smalling and Jones are a worse centre-back two than ours. Valencia and de Gea are the only decent players in United’s back five.

    Dirty Dele struck again. The blatant kick on Sanchez was what Arsene would call a “dark yellow”. I promise you that Xhaka would have been sent off for that.

    If there was an Own Goal of the Season, nominations would close now, and Phil Jones would win.

      1. You don’t say.

        Rumour has it that Mustafi was seen pointing at the tv and laughing hysterically.

          1. I got that wrong. Never saw that happening. Now we can start subbing him when he’s having a poor game 😉

          2. By the way, the Ozil fans’ song is a belter…

            We’ve got Mesut Oziiiilll
            He’s Arsene Wenger’s man
            He’s better than Zidane
            We’ve got Mesut Oziiiilll

            I’m responsible for the accuracy of any sentiments uttered

    1. I couldn’t find a clip of the Alli yellow on youtube. Dirtiest player in the league (the unholy combo of diving and kicking). I hate that guy.

      1. I watched it live. It was straight-up kick on the ankle. Premeditated, deliberate, know what he was doing. Walked away straight after delivering it. I’ve seen reds given for those.

  3. Wenger and Mourinho both have lost their ways.
    Arsenal used to be fun watching going forward even if flaky at the back, and Mourinho’s well organized defence is a thing of the past it seems.

    Sanchez will never repeat his Arsenal numbers from two seasons ago while under Mourinho and that’s why his wages will become a problem sooner or later.

    Claude , how is Aubameyang ‘s market value at £90 m in the transfer market ?
    Hasn’t the market spoken at £56 m.

  4. It is fact that Pogba wanted to go to Real Madrid and Real wanted him. But Raiola insisted on a big cut just for himself and Real said “no”. Thus he ends up a United who seem to have no problems paying agents on the side.

    Somebody tell me what an agent does that a good contract lawyer couldn’t help a player with?

    1. It’s true that a lot of the skills of a contract lawyer overlap with what an agent ‘does’. But very often these agents identify these players as young talents. They then put in the time with them through their early years on a personal level. They probably help them keep on track, guard against the wrong sponsorship deal, or get them one through their contacts, prevent them from saying the wrong thing etc.

      I’m all for restricting agent fees and their influence on the game, but agents aren’t the devil’s spawn and they don’t get paid for nothing. In effect, they are career managers for the players rather than just contract negotiators.

      1. There was also a report that Auba came to us because his father, who is his agent, admired Wenger since his time in France, and liked how Arsenal conduct their business. (Or something of the sort)

      2. “I’m all for restricting agent fees and their influence on the game, but agents aren’t the devil’s spawn and they don’t get paid for nothing. In effect, they are career managers for the players rather than just contract negotiators.”

        Sums it up well. But the first part of that sentence is important, and would address the abuse.

      3. Yes, that’s more or les sit. Agents find their clients oftentimes when they’re still young and being in an academy is not easy for these teenagers. Clubs are often ruthless cutting players each year and the mates you’ve been playing with one minute are out the next. It is very competitive and can be cutthroat. Add to that that there are a lot of players from far away countries, it only adds to the difficulties. Not all academies are nurturing and caring.
        Add to that the clubs weren’t used to take care of their players properly, especially the foreign ones, there’s a chapter in Soccernomics about Drogba when he first arrived at Chelsea and he couldn’t speak any language and how lost he felt in England after training, alone in his hotel room. And he was a big transfer at the time. Now imaqgine the difficulties at the lower end, I’ve heard stories about 20 year old brazilians to play in Bundeliga 2 clubs, that came to Germany without winter clothes and were basically alone in empty appartments. That clubs employ more and more liasion officers and do a lot more work integrating new and especially foreign players is relatively new.
        These things were and are then taken care of by agents, who are on their clients side. That’s why these relationships are oftentimes very close. Clubs are employers and can be shitty as well, shifting players like commodities. The one manager makes a promise to develop the player but six months later that manager is gone and the new boss discards you. There’s a lot of turnover in clubs, a lot of promises made to players, that won’t and sometimes can’t be kept. The agent is the person that’s constantly on the player’s side. I mean, we’re taking elite football when we’re talking about Arsenal and the top of the PL, but being a player in lower leagues can be very dire.

    2. It’s stickier than that: Raiola and Mourinho are good friends. I think he’s even Mourinho’s agent. I’m happy to be corrected there.

      1. I thought that was Jorge Mendes. He’s the guy who had all those players at Porto, (and then at Chelsea) and was said to be able to decide the destination of the league title through his ‘ownership’ of players.

      2. Shard’s right: Mendes is his agent, and used to be the King of Old Trafford, in the Ronaldo era. But two summers ago United made a big effort to get on the good side of Raiola (or maybe the other way around), and I’m convinced we lost out on Mkhitaryan the first time around because Raiola insisted he go to Man U (or at least insisted on it after it was clear we weren’t going to pay him a massive fee). Both Mendes and Raiola have a number of big name clients at Old Trafford.

      3. Definitely Mendes. Scumbag #1 of agents, Raiola would be #2.

        He’s Ronaldo’s agent, DeGea’s agent, also William Carvahlo and probably one reason we never pursued him despite the boxes he’d check off.

  5. My parting shot for Alexis, paraphrasing the great Jim Steinman from the very first hit single from the seminal “Bat Out Of Hell”
    We wanted you
    We needed you
    But there’s no way
    We were ever gonna love you
    But don’t feel bad
    Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad

    I think we’ll probably feel that way about Aina. Let’s see what happens.

    Tim, happy you’re not sick any more. Keep on keeping on.

  6. “Somebody tell me what an agent does that a good contract lawyer couldn’t help a player with?”

    Anything and everything from helping a player move, settle in, telling the player how great he is, how undervalued he is, or how his slump might be someone else’s fault 🙂

    Unlike most lawyer/client relationships many player/agent relationships become close friendships lasting beyond players’ careers, the ones that aren’t already a parent/ son, or a brother/brother relationship .

  7. I have nothing but ennui over all this because despite signing a big name, exciting goal scorer we still have NOTHING to address our root issues by signing a player who couldn’t give toss about anything other than getting service and putting the ball in the back of the net.

    We have given up more goals than the last place team in the Premier League and we will only get sloppier in the back as we desperately try to feed Auba and Lacazette with no defensive midfielders to cover the back when those passes go astray.

  8. And what will we do without his Gallic Handsomeness? Wife and Daughter of 1Nil were not happy to see him go. And aside from his qualities of popping hairpins at 50 feet, the man scored some very important goals for us over the years and actually stayed to fight for his place before the season.

    1. Meh.

      He was a weird guy for me. Only seemed to do the spectacular but often failed at the normal. I don’t know. He drove me kind of nuts.

  9. About time on agents: hope Conn writes an expose on it as good as his Beautiful Game book.
    Raiola’s delight at an unexpected payday through Mkhi’s move to us was unseemly: it was like he’d won the lottery. And I wonder if the £10-15m price adjustment that was meant to be coming our way when the switch was first muted disappeared into his pocket instead.
    I just hope, after this latest supermarket dash, that we’ve done things ‘correctly’ and not compromised ourselves.
    Mourinho’s patronage of certain key agents has always looked suspect. Still, at least it’s done his team no good! Sadly, I don’t think he’s a bust trick yet but the comparison of Pogba and Rambo is good – Pogba should be operating more as an Ozil than a Viera (as should Rambo, but obviously there’s a bit of a queue for that role now), and playing him otherwise unbalances them.
    I have to say that, balance wise, Tottenham look a good second to City.

  10. “His “organization” which was once his strong suit seems to have evaporated and he’s got players like Pogba running around thinking they are the next Aaron Ramsey.”

    This made me laugh out loud at work.

    Yeah United has been the poster child for excesses but I think a big reason why they were ponying up the cash to these blood sucking agents is because they were desperate to get back into the champions league or at least to stop looking like a mid-table team. I think if there was an actual coordinated effort from FIFA and UEFA to reign in agent fees, then all the clubs, including United, will get behind it. I’m very skeptical this will happen though. FIFA and UEFA are too dirty and corrupt. Who knows what kind of dossiers on these guys are kept by agents like Mendes and Raiola? I suspect they have come across a lot of crooked FIFA and UEFA officials in their dealings. Still – I can only hope it’s very much a case of two dirty organizations trying to take power away from a cabal. That would be fun to watch.

  11. Maybe not all agents are money-grubbing parasites, and maybe some of them actually care about their clients more than just as long as that serves their personal needs. Probably most represent only a handful of players and do their jobs honorably. I don’t think that job description even approximates the caliber of gangster that a Jorge Mendes is. He has, what, 70 clients? Maybe more? I’m sure he keeps up with them on instagram and goes to their birthday parties and their moms invite him over for supper regularly. More likely, they hired him because he has clout, and contacts in the game, and can get things done. In other words, he’s a mafia boss, swimming in semi-legitimate riches, and who do you think might be susceptible to that if not FIFA? They will never touch gangsters like Mendes, and why would they? He’s an international thug who has worked out how to make everyone march to his tune. I don’t really have the words, honestly. We have Scott Boras in the US who is cut from the same cloth but at least there is more oversight and more restrictions on him.

    1. Your lips to those agents ears.
      If the world had just 2% more humility, modesty, generosity and empathy what a better life it would be for all of us.

    2. Mendes actually runs an agency, Gestifute, so he’s responsible for the top talent and his other ventures. Raiola actually works on his own and is said to be very close to his clients.

  12. Why not make player traiding completely transparent by using an exchange? Any player eligible could be auto-listed, those wanting to move could signal it by a requst for quote. Very simple and well proven for many asset classes, just need some fine tuning of the order and quote type and thie parameters and the matching algos.

    Agents could get a standardd minimal share of the proceedings. Job done.

  13. In response to yesterday’s post, I was going to ask if you thought that our midfield and defense would be good enough with better coaching or if you thought we need better players.

    I was going to offer “Mourinho-as-coach” as a hypothetical, but he seems to have lost his touch/the thread/his players, so maybe that is not a good example anymore.

    Ramsey lacks positional discipline, but that can be taught. Xhaka lacks positional awareness and that is a much deeper problem – maybe one that a coach can’t fix. The coach can instruct the CM and wingbacks to not bomb forward, although we might need a new coach before this gets implemented.

    I think we had a pretty good January window, and like everyone else, I would love to see a midfield with the likes of Pogba, Vidal, and Pirlo. But I wonder if Ramsey, Wilshere, and Mkhitaryan would be competent with some proper coaching and instruction.

    1. “…would be competent with some proper coaching and instruction.”

      Ain’t that the key to it all? And we don’t have it.


    I’m sure this will get discussed.

    The only way to fix this is a strict salary + transfer cap. It needs to be a cap tied to a team’s revenues, so the big clubs can remain big clubs and be willing to sign on. Salaries + transfers (including agent fees) cannot exceed 70% of a team’s overall revenues. Revenues would be restricted to player sales + match-day turnover + TV money + competition pay-offs+ merchandising. No sponsorship money. That would prevent the Sheik’s brother from coming in and sponsoring a team for an absurd amount that is clearly a way of bypassing the rules.

    A cap like this would help to curb agent demands because if their pay-off is coming from the same kitty as what’s needed to actually pay the players, clubs won’t be so willing to fork it over.

    A team can go into debt then, but only if it’s spending money on infrastructure i.e. stadiums, academies, marketing. A club could then decide to increase it’s revenues long term by going into debt to build a new stadium or upgrade its academy to produce more/better players. This is good for the long term health of the sport.

    I’m just fantasizing here. As the good Dr. Gooner so noted above, FIFA and UEFA are so corrupt they will never suggest a scheme like this to save our sport so long as their bank accounts are being padded with pay-offs from super agents and third world despots.

    1. The problem is it would be hard to enforce. Salary caps and Transfer caps are on very shaky ground in European work law. And there are national laws of each country associated to consider. UEFA can’t just pull such a cap out of its hat.

  15. A few years ago I got laughed off this board when I suggested that one reason Arsenal might have problems with transfers is that we didn’t have good relationships with agents, especially the super agents like Mendes. Now whether one wants “good” relationships with semi-mobsters is another sticky question but a different subject.

    It was reported that Rialo got paid by Pobga, ManUre, AND Juve in Pogba’s transfer. Agents essentially act as pimps when it comes to players and protection racketeers to the clubs.

    The solution is very simple. Agents are paid by the players they represent, PERIOD. Licensing would be just a cherry on top of the cake to ensure professionalism but the chief problem is the extortionate fees extracted by agents from clubs to “broker” deals. How can anyone believe that agents are working in their ostensible client’s best interests if they’re getting paid as much or more from other parties in the deal? Whether FIFA, an organization rife with administrators who operate in the same murky waters as agents, has the guts to do this is doubtful.

  16. Speaking of money and agents, how much do people think Ozil would command on the open market in transfer fees?

    I did some quick math and his 350,000/week salary pays him just shy of 20,000,000 per year, or 70,000,000 for the duration of his contract. Ok, that’s a lot, but if we tried to procure a like-for-like replacement, say, Thomas Lemar, someone of that caliber, we’d have paid nearly that in player registration rights (transfer fee) alone, and then probably at least half of that in salary. This way, we cut out the agent’s “cut” (of the transfer fee at least) which means more of the club’s money goes to the player himself and not to some shady agency which inflates the transfer fees for their own.

    On the downside, as others have pointed out, this contract means Ozil will be difficult to move if he does not perform to expected standards and hampers the club’s financial flexibility somewhat, not sure exactly to what extent.

    1. As you point out, when you factor the cost of a replacement of similar ability, Ozil’s contract is probably a bargain, especially factoring in the feel good factor of retaining our best players. But I also wonder if this isn’t a little bit of a face saving move for Mesut. I mean, there was certainly not a lot of smoke concerning potential moves for him. Were clubs the stature of Barca, Bayern, PSG (financial stature here), et al actually making strong overtures for him? The rumor mill was decidedly lukewarm compared to Sanchez.

      Ozil’s ability to create scoring opportunities is still probably second to none. But in an attacking sense, what else does he bring to the table? Compared, for example, to attacking midfielders like KdB, Hazard, Isco, et al, who might not have quite his passing ability but certainly well surpass him in scoring and dribbling ability, Ozil is a bit one note. In a football world which emphasizes balance and attacking and defensive contributions from all players on the pitch, versatility and greater all around ability might be more highly valued. Certainly, if he went to a bigger club I doubt they’d make him the centerpiece and build a team around him. Perhaps, Arsenal were the only top ten financial team who gave him the combination of money, global exposure, and importance to the team which he craved.

      1. Does it matter?

        Personally, I think the reason there weren’t constant rumours around Ozil is because he intended to stay and wanted Arsenal to offer him a better deal. Maybe he was also waiting to see how they deal with Alexis’ inevitable departure. He could always whip up a market for himself in the summer if it came to that.

        Reports from Germany say he turned down interest from ManU, PSG and Barca (Maybe prior to them going for Coutinho for a 100m plus)

        1. It matters in the sense that it is another indicator of Arsenal’s place in the club food chain. We’re not an apex predator, we don’t compete with the super clubs for the same players. Nobody would expect us to wrest KdB from Citeh or Pogba from Manure, let alone tempt Messi, Ronaldo, or Neymar from their respective clubs. If the super clubs are truly interested in a player, we have to back off and switch targets. And if we do manage to get a player that turns into a player that a super club actually desires, we’re very hard pressed to keep that player no matter how much we wish to keep him. Ozil and Arsenal occupy more or less equivalent places in the player and club food chains, very good but not quite the very, very best. Not saying that players and clubs of this caliber can’t win important silverware. Just that it’ll take a little more luck, a little more team cohesion, and little more unified approach for that to happen.

          1. We know all this anyway. And yes, no other team can could probably combine the money, prestige/exposure, and being given the keys to the team in the same way Arsenal could for Ozil. I don’t know why this needs to be painted as a negative. As far as I’m concerned it shows that it is possible for us to keep our best players, and pay what would be considered monster wages not too long ago.

            Also, I have long said that Ozil loves Arsenal. His comments were passed off as just PR, but no PR agency would go as far as he did in backing Wenger, and taking on the pundits/’legends’ for how they attack the team. The proof of that pudding was supposed to be in him signing a new contract. Yes, that love needed to be combined with other factors, but face saving? Because you didn’t see too much noise around him? It’s because his preference was to stay, not because there’s no market for him.

      2. “Perhaps, Arsenal were the only top ten financial team who gave him the combination of money, global exposure, and importance to the team which he craved.”

        You nailed it. It’s pretty obvious as well that he wanted to see real commitment from Arsenal to strengthening the team and putting pieces around him and with Auba and Mikhi in the fold, that has come to pass. The three of them together form a potent attacking force with Lacazette another good option. That foursome gives the team enough goals to compete with just about anyone. Specifically the combination of Auba and Ozil matches the best creator of chances in Europe with the best record in terms of expected goals in Europe (source:

  17. A bit off topic, but I hear that Alex Song is training at London Colney while looking for a club. The story is that he’s working on his fitness , which is fair enough, but isn’t this what happened with Flamini before we signed him for a second time?

        1. I was agreeing with you, because so did those two. And maybe Jens Lehmann too, though I don’t remember the circumstances of his return. I don’t think we’re signing Alex Song though

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