The transfer window may now be closed for Premier League clubs, but the work of football agents is never-ending.
Much is made of agents and the role they play in the modern game, with the media perhaps not always painting the most favourable picture of these hard-working men and women who do so much behind the scenes.
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Luckily, Nick Robinson of International Sports Consulting (ISC) was kind enough to speak to CaughtOffside about the life of a football agent, shedding light on why deals can take so long, what it’s like working with managers and sporting directors, and what goes on outside of transfer season.
ISC work with big names in football and rugby, having notably represented Sofiane Boufal as he completed a club-record transfer to Southampton in 2016.
It was fascinating to hear Nick’s expertise on an industry that many people perhaps don’t know that much about. Here’s what he had to say…
CaughtOffside: What exactly is the day-to-day life of a football agent like?
Nick: It’s about being on top of the goings on in the marketplace. Your focus is on the club or player you’re representing, and you’re predicting and reacting to a swiftly-moving marketplace. That means being in contact with the key decision-makers at the clubs about what they’re looking for, who they’re looking to sell and then matching that with clients you may have and whatever opportunities there are in the marketplace. So it’s a different role during the transfer window and outside it. Outside the window you’re essentially looking out for your players, making sure they’re doing as well as they can and that they’re happy.
COS: Football clubs have scouts and sophisticated recruitment strategies these days, is it the same for agents identifying potential clients?
N: You want to pick the best players. You go to games, you speak to people and find out who’s coming through, or if there’s a player who’s doing well who might’ve recently left their agent, or has an agent who’s overseas and who might want a UK agent.
COS: There’s perhaps a bit of a perception in the media of clubs, managers and so on having difficult relationships with agents, is this really the case?
N: It’s about good diplomacy, having open and clear communication. There are some people who are aren’t capable of that that and that can very quickly result in conflicts, but if you’re managing expectations, if you’re intelligent about managing your relationship between the player and club then it’s very possible to have a good working relationship.
COS: Mino Raiola is pretty infamous and has been reported as being an agent some clubs don’t want to work with, what do you know about him?
N: I don’t want to comment on specific agents. As a rule, if a player or an agent has a reputation of getting into disputes with clubs, then a new club will always consider that in terms of if they want to do business with them. If a player works hard, shows they’re a real team player and shows leadership etc, clubs will want that player in their team.
COS: Are there any particular clubs you find are better or worse to work with?
N: Most clubs now have a structure fit for the modern game. More and more clubs have sporting directors who out-last managers so you build a relationship, as long as you’re not wasting their time and promoting the right type of player, so for example not pushing really attacking full-backs to a club that like playing with defensive full-backs. The onus is really on the agent to find out how a club operates, and a lot of places now are run really well with professional people.
COS: Why exactly do some deals seem to drag on and on before finally being completed?
N: Often it’s because there are so many parties that need to agree to a deal, and there are so many moving parts within that. Let’s say it’s an international player – at the beginning you have the parent club and have to negotiate a fee with them, and then things like incentives, bonuses, percentage of future sale, and then the payment terms so whether it’s paid straight away or if it’s being paid over several years – that in itself can take quite a while. Then you might have the agent of the player and the player negotiating with a club, then the UK-based agent who brought the deal to the UK club going over the deal with the player, the overseas agent and the club. So there are lots of different people, lots of permutations, and the whole time the market is moving all around it … a player might get injured, or another club might come in and offer more money, or a player might decide they don’t want to go to that club. With good players there tends to be lots of options. Often as well it might be similar to the housing market and part of a chain – if you think of Harry Maguire, the chain, the sequence of events basically ended with Webster being bought by Brighton from Bristol City.
COS: Do these all tend to speed up a lot when transfers go through on deadline day?
N: It’s less crazy than it used to be, but it can get crazy in the few days or week leading up to it. Most deals are partially or mostly done by deadline day.