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Saturday, Jan. 27, 2007


Agents receiving massive sums for little work on transfers

LONDON -- The following conversation took place at a house in England recently . . .

Christopher Davies

Father: 'So tell me, what do you want to be when you grow up?'

Son: 'A football agent, Daddy.'

Father: 'A football agent? Not a teacher or a doctor?'

Son: 'No, Daddy, a football agent.'

Father: 'But wouldn't you like to serve society in a more positive way?'

Son: 'Not when you can make so much money doing so little as a football agent, Daddy.'

Father: 'They can't make THAT much money . . .?'

Son: 'Oh yes they can. When Yakubu moved from Portsmouth to Middlesbrough a couple of years ago, the man who brokered the deal earned £3 million.'

Father: 'Surely that cannot be true . . .?'

Son: 'Yes, it is. What's more, the fee was only £7.5 million, so the agent collected about 40 percent of the fee for his . . . well, fee. That seems nice easy money, Daddy, which is why I want to be a football agent.'

Father: 'So let me get this right. Yakubu was with Portsmouth but wanted to join Middlesbrough . . .?'

Son: 'Yes . . .'

Father: 'So the agent didn't have to do the hard sell like, say, an estate agent trying to sell a house to a client . . .?'

Son: 'Oh no. Middlesbrough wanted Yakubu. Portsmouth were happy to sell him. Yakubu wanted to join Middlesbrough.

Mr. Pini Zahavi fixed it all up, organized the five-year contract and collected £3 million in the process. Mr. Zahavi will only get the full £3 million if the striker sees out his five-year contract . . . And I read somewhere Mr. Zahavi has to pay another agent, Barry Silkman, something because he kind of owns Yakubu.'

Father: 'Well if he only gets £2.5 million I can always send him some money!

And TWO agents benefited from the deal . . . wow!

So, who paid Mr. Zahavi? Yakubu?'

Son: 'Don't be silly, Daddy! Of course not. Middlesbrough paid Mr. Zahavi.'

Father: 'The club paid him?!'

Son: 'That's right. Middlesbrough were willing to pay Portsmouth £7.5 million and another £3 million to Mr. Zahavi and his friend for . . . for . . . er, well . . . negotiating the best possible contract for their client, I guess. Which means getting the maximum amount of money out of Middlesbrough.'

Father: 'How do you become a football agent, son . . .?'

OK. I embellished a bit. The conversation was made up, but the contents are true.

If Yakubu stays at Middlesbrough for five years, Zahavi will get his full £3 million, which will be only £750,000 less than Portsmouth actually received for the Nigerian striker.

Portsmouth shared its £7.5 million fee for Yakubu with the player's previous club, Maccabi Haifa of Israel, which negotiated a 50-percent sell-on clause when the striker joined the South Coast club in 2003.

So when Yakubu signed for 'Boro, both Portsmouth and Maccabi Haifa in effect both received £3.75 million, which is not much more than Zahavi, by coincidence an Israeli, could make from the deal.

There is nothing illegal about Zahavi's cut, though many would perceive it as immoral that so much could be paid to a third party for what on the face of it appears to be so little work.

Most contracts these days are standard with individual clauses inserted as necessary.

'Boro was happy to pay Zahavi his fee, which is believed to be by far the highest commission ever collected by an agent.

Zahavi had previously earned £1.25 million for negotiating former Leeds defender Rio Ferdinand's contract at Manchester United.

When Wayne Rooney moved from Everton to United, in 2004, Proactive, the agency that negotiated the deal, benefited by £1.5 million.

United paid similar sums to Roger Lindse, Ruud van Nistelrooy's agent, and Jorge Mendes, who represents Cristiano Ronaldo.

Agents' fees are random, not a set percentage of any transfer fee. While no one can blame a player for wanting someone to act on his behalf in a multimillion pound transfer, one wonders why more do not employ a lawyer such as Michael Kennedy who charged Roy Keane an hourly rate when the Sunderland manager signed contracts with Manchester United and Celtic.

Kennedy has a reputation for negotiating extremely good terms for his clients and whoever pays the lawyer is not out of pocket to the tune of anything like £3 million or probably even £1 million.

But £3 million commission for one deal makes being a football agent a very attractive proposition.

EMRE, the Newcastle midfielder, has formally denied using racially aggravated language after the Football Association charged him following after an incident at Everton last month.

The charge arises from a clash between the Turkish international and the Everton trio Tim Howard, Joleon Lescott and Joseph Yobo.

The four were involved in a heated exchange after Newcastle was awarded a penalty and had to be separated by teammates.

Referee Dermot Gallagher did not hear what was said and took no action. However, Gallagher included details of the allegations in his match report, and the F.A. immediately launched an inquiry.

After receiving Everton's observations, the F.A. charged Emre, who will argue his case in front of a disciplinary commission.

Newcastle manager Glenn Roeder said: 'Emre has told me clearly what he had said, and while not being particularly pleasant, it was not racist.'

In 2002, Reading's John Mackie made a racist remark to Carl Asaba, the Sheffield United striker. Mackie apologized after the game and voluntarily donated two weeks' wages to the Kick Racism Out Of Football campaign.

The F.A. handed him a three-game ban with a further five matches suspended. The player was also fined £1,500.

Racism is abhorrent but also subjective to an extent. Unpleasant is not necessarily racist.

The disciplinary commission will preside over what in many ways is the most sensitive of charges, aware that a guilty decision in such a case will brand any player found guilty a racist.

Any person, footballer or otherwise, who is guilty of racism should be handed a punishment to fit the crime, which many would feel is more than a three-match ban.

Christopher Davies was a longtime soccer correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.

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