Category: Football News

Being an Agent in Football

From the public’s perspective, being an agent – or, as FIFA now calls them, an intermediary – is a glamorous, high-profile and highly lucrative profession for what some think demands very little work or effort. They are often seen as the curse of the modern game, the people responsible for driving transfer prices and wages up or down, depending on their client’s priorities. In light of such arguments, does the football industry really benefit from agents? Whisper it, but yes. Agents are essential and play an important role in delivering the spectacle that is modern football.

There are bad apples in any profession, but there are plenty of extremely hard-working agents, who are paid very well and do a fantastic job for their clients. One such ‘super-agent’ is Mino Raiola, who represents Paul Pogba and is reported to have made more than £40m from his client’s transfer to Manchester United from Juventus. There was widespread condemnation, the former FA chairman David Bernstein being among the most vociferous critics: ‘Even if they [the transfers] are being done within the existing regulations, figures of those sorts of size in agents’ commissions are just immoral. It might not be illegal but it’s immoral.’ Those fees were in addition to the significant sums Raiola has made in brokering deals for Romelu Lukaku, Zlatan Ibrahimović and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Such prominent agents inevitably colour the media’s portrayal of the profession; not all deals are as high-profile or as lucrative.

There are thousands of agents working across the world’s major football leagues. There are over 1,800 registered agents operating in the English Premier League and Football League alone. It’s fair to say that the amounts made by Mino Raiola, Pini Zahavi (Robert Lewandowski’s agent) and Jorge Mendes (Cristiano Ronaldo’s agent) are very much the exception to the rule. Nonetheless, they make headlines – because elite clubs are willing to pay record transfer fees and wages for world-class, elite players.

Top agents are highly trained negotiators and impressive networkers, who provide connections to clubs that might otherwise struggle to make a deal happen. Granted, not all agents are as savvy as the next. But fans and the wider public usually have only a very distorted view of agents – believing that an agent only has to make a call, set up a meeting and then pocket the significant commission. Such circumstances, in my experience, are rare. Indeed, Pogba’s transfer to United – to offer just one example – will have taken many months to structure, will have included detailed and nuanced negotiations, and involved numerous clubs, executives, personalities and politics. Agents are masters at cutting through roadblocks and finding solutions.

Football Clubs and Foreign Ownership

Even before Roman Abramovich became a household name in July 2003, Premier League clubs were attractive businesses. Constant speculation linked endless potential investors with one of the most popular leagues in the world. At the start of the 2016/17 season, 57% of clubs in the Premier League and Football League Championship were owned or controlled by foreign investors. By the 2018/19 season, only Burnley, Brighton, Huddersfield, Newcastle, Tottenham and West Ham bucked the trend, with newly promoted clubs Wolves, Cardiff and Fulham all foreign-owned.

In the period 2015–17 notable takeovers included:

• West Bromwich Albion, sold to a Chinese investment group led by entrepreneur Lai Guochuan;

• Wolverhampton Wanderers, bought by Chinese company Fosun;

• a majority stake in Swansea City, acquired by a consortium led by investors Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien;

• 49.9% of Everton, bought by Farhad Moshiri;

• 70% of Crystal Palace, bought by a group of US-based investors, including Josh Harris and David Blitzer;

• 80% of Southampton, sold to Gao Jisheng, founder and chairman of Lander Sports;

• Aston Villa, sold to Tony Xia, a Chinese businessman who subsequently sold on the club; and

• Leeds United, sold by controversial owner Massimo Cellino to Italian businessman Andrea Radrizzani.

Across Europe, many high-profile clubs have also been bought and sold, including Italy’s Inter and AC Milan (to Chinese investors), and France’s Marseille and Nice (to American and American/Chinese consortia respectively).

Indeed, according to the latest UEFA benchmarking report, ‘More than 70% of all foreign takeovers in the top 15 leagues since 2016 have involved Chinese investors. In this period Chinese owners have taken over clubs in the Premier League, Championship, Serie A, Ligue 1, La Liga and Eredivisie.’

At the beginning of the 2016/17 season, there were 16 foreign owners in the Premier League compared with 10 in 2010/11 and three in the 2004/05 season. In the 2016/17 Football League season, 11 of the 24 Championship clubs had foreign owners/majority shareholders. The global appeal of the league is plain to see.

To date, the highest profile and most significant takeover involved the £790m purchase of Manchester United by the Glazer family in 2005. It remains controversial because the owners funded the purchase in part through loans secured against the club. Reports suggest that £500m+ has been spent on financing that debt to date.

2018/19 Premier League majority owners

Arsenal Stan Kroenke (USA)
Bournemouth Maxim Demin (Russia)
Brighton Tony Bloom (England)
Burnley Mike Garlick (England)
Cardiff Vincent Tan (Malaysia)
Chelsea Roman Abramovich (Russia)
Crystal Palace Steve Parish (England), Joshua Harris and David S. Blitzer (USA)
Everton Farhad Moshiri (Iran)
Fulham Shahid Khan (USA)
Huddersfield Dean Hoyle (England)
Leicester Srivaddhanaprabha family (Thailand)
Liverpool John W. Henry and Tom Werner (USA)
Manchester City Sheikh Mansour (UAE)
Manchester United The Glazer family (USA)
Newcastle Mike Ashley (England)
Southampton Gao Jisheng (China)
Tottenham Joe Lewis (England)
Watford The Pozzo family (Italy)
West Ham David Gold and David Sullivan (England)
Wolverhampton Wanderers Fosun International (China)

Football Player Transfers and Contracts

Turn back the clocks to August 2015, deadline day. As reported at the time, Manchester United are on the verge of finalising two high-profile, multi-million-pound transfers. The club are negotiating the sale of their first-choice goalkeeper, David de Gea, to Real Madrid for approximately £30m, including the part exchange of Madrid keeper Keylor Navas.

Simultaneously, the club’s negotiators are also trying to conclude a deal for Monaco wunderkind Anthony Martial for a staggering £50m+. While United manage to finalise the Martial transfer, de Gea and Navas are left without new clubs: the correct documentation was not uploaded to the FIFA Transfer Matching System in enough time, so the deal collapsed. A war of words breaks out, both clubs blaming each other. In the weeks that follow, de Gea signs a long-term contract extension and Martial scores on his debut against arch-rivals Liverpool.

This must have been a pressurised time for the lawyers, negotiators and commercial members of the United back-room staff. They were simultaneously negotiating playing contracts with a whole host of bonus provisions and performance clauses; securing image rights deals, to ensure club sponsorship agreements don’t conflict with player sponsor arrangements; and negotiating with the various agents acting for the players and the clubs selling them.

Football Stadium

In addition, they were finalising all the paperwork and documentation required for international transfers to take place. Navas will have required a work permit, complicating an already difficult set of negotiations and admin tasks.

It’s taken you only moments to read the headlines, but what has just been described will almost certainly have taken weeks, if not months of organisation and negotiation. Some transfers make it over the line, like Martial’s, and some don’t, like de Gea’s. This chapter will show the difficulty in making a transfer happen and the spider’s web of jobs, tasks and complications that most fans never see or even contemplate.

Fast forward to the end of the 2017 Premier League summer transfer window, and records continued to tumble. A world record £1.4bn was spent by Premier League clubs; PSG bought out the contract of Barcelona’s Neymar for £198m and paid a large loan fee to Monaco for Kylian Mbappé with the promise of a £167m transfer fee in the 2018 summer window. It was also the season for transfers that didn’t (initially at least) materialise for a number of high-profile players. Philippe Coutinho submitted a transfer request to his club Liverpool, who refused three separate bids from Barcelona for his services. Diego Costa was left without a transfer out of the Premier League, and faced the prospect of being frozen out at Chelsea. He returned to Atlético Madrid in September but was not allowed to play until January 2018 because Atlético were banned from registering new players. Virgil van Dijk submitted a transfer request in order to push through a deal to Liverpool, who were willing to pay north of £70m to secure his services. It would not be until January 2018, however, that he joined Liverpool – for £75m, a world record fee for a defender.

Many of these issues – transfer fee negotiations, agents’ commission, contract renegotiations, image rights deals, work permits, and international transfer clearances – are described below. This is the bread-and-butter work for clubs and agents alike. Take a glimpse into what actually goes on to get a deal done.

Getting Things Back on Track

For the sake of their tradition, expectations, and potential, England’s decision makers are hopeful this trend of terrible, unfortunate, and unlucky World Cup performances and results won’t go on in perpetuity. As of 2016, the FA which formed in 1863, the first football association in the world—had placed their trust in the hands of technical director, Dan Ashworth.

The Daily Mail: a conservative British tabloid with a circulation of about two million put out an article in 2016, delineating the plans of Ashworth and the FA to correct the past and prepare for the future. Without much detail, the article illuminated England’s growing concern with improving their national team’s standard of play as was indicated in the title of the article: “FA masterplan to win World Cup in 2022 includes hiring specialist coaches to help with possession and ball control,” which was interesting, considering possession has proven to be a salient issue for the Three Lions.

Further concern was echoed from a piece in the, February 18, 2016, by Charles Sale: “The FA’s masterplan aimed at winning the World Cup in 2022 includes hiring an array of specialist coaches for when England have the ball, when they do not have the ball—and when they are kicking it. The FA are advertising on their website for national technical coaches, with the job descriptions saying: ‘We are changing how we work, reallocating resources and investing heavily to create a team of exceptional people capable of creating winning England teams.’”

Without question, members of the FA are cognizant of the grave issues at hand, but a cynic would hasten to point out, it’s not without superiority naivety. In typical fashion, they’ve conceded negligence on their part, pledging to fix it. However, their means of steering the ship in the right direction might have more to do with English pride than actually doing it right. By the FA’s own concession, they intend to act on real change with English soccer, just as Napoleon promised the farm animals that things would change for the better. To some, it’s nothing but old ideas disguised as new and improved action. Such critics are familiar with England as a steward of such promises in accordance with the underlining subtext: We will change things. Change will come—as long as it follows closely in line with what we’ve already been doing.

On the flipside, one could say they’re on a progressive path to making their program better. The relationship with the FA and coaching is, and always will be, combined as one, so to speak, seeking to guide the team toward a better future.

And, as usual, notwithstanding past disappointment, England has every reason in the world to win the World Cup again. When that might be, is anyone’s guess. After losing to Iceland in the 2016 European Cup, they have as good a chance of winning the World Cup in Russia as they would boarding a spaceship with Nick Pope on route to Andromeda. But, low and behold, after leading a strong World Cup qualification campaign, they’re among the favorites in Russia.

They’ve had a profound influence on the game with their successful club teams and their consistent winning with the national team. Entering Russia 2018, the English are equipped with a phenomenal lineup, one they think has the potential to bring the trophy back to where they feel it belongs.

All of the history and all of the issues with England makes them one of the most exciting teams to watch.

The Infamous Flop Is Explained

First off, the best flop from past World Cups would likely have to be the notorious Rivaldo flop near the corner flag in the 2002 World Cup. As flops go, if he were a singer, his name would have to be The Big Bopper.

 Another famous example, coincidentally from Brazil (or is it?), would be the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal match in which Socrates and his crew—including Junior and Careca—were up against Platini, Giresse, Tigana, and the elegant French. This particular case, in fairness, borders on flopping by way of flopping skills put to use. Branco went down in the French penalty box and rolled around searching for the pain. Was he fouled, or wasn’t he? It was hard to tell in real time, though it definitely looked like a foul. However, some flopping know-how (which we’ll cover momentarily) was definitely added a penalty. When the foul was awarded, he raised his arms in victory. Then Zico missed the penalty kick.

 In general, flopping has been regarded by many as, (1) a keen way of getting the referee to call fouls on your behalf, (2) a clever way to waste time near the end of a game to ensure a victory, and, (3) a complete nuisance.

 If anything positive can be said about the flopping strategy, it’s this: The main intent is to get the referee to call a foul immediately and to work the referee so that he calls more fouls later in the game. However, many people argue it’s just a waste of time. Is it strategy? Is it calling out for help on a deeper level than just a foul? The flop is intriguing on many levels. For those new to the flop, it can be described in the following ways.

 Scenario One: A typical flop is when a player is not fouled at all but desperately wants to fool the referee into thinking a foul has occurred. So they fake a foul, along with a fake injury that was caused by the fake foul. Basically, there’s a lot of fakery going on. This includes rolling on the ground, writhing in pain, moaning, wincing, grabbing the legs, and calling for the medical staff, along with the stretcher, along with a priest to administer last rites. “Oh, my ankle! Oh, dear God, the agony! Oh, the agony! Maybe my $20 million contract will be able to afford a pair of crutches for all the pain I’m enduring!” Sometimes referees can be fooled. “Is he really hurt? Was that really a foul? What am I not seeing out here?” This is what the flopper wants the referee to think. It’s an ongoing game of acting. And the referee has to be on high alert for such a thing.

 Scenario Two: A player gets slightly fouled and embellishes the affair by rolling around on the ground, accompanied by the shenanigans: grimacing and writhing in pain and what not, hoping the referee gives a yellow card.

 Scenario Three: There are times, in fact, when a real foul occurs, a kick to the leg for instance, which may in fact hurt, and the injured player uses flopping know-how to get the point across to the referee that a yellow card should be shown. So, in fact, in this case, it wouldn’t be a flop. However, sometimes it’s hard for the referee to see the foul committed, and, based on past flopping, the whole “don’t cry wolf” element is being considered. Not wanting to be fooled, the referee is conflicted based on all past flopping activity, trickery, and apropos shenanigans. So therefore, previous floppers of the Scenario One persuasion can be blamed for the referee not being sympathetic when a real foul occurs. The usual outcome: The cards stay in the pocket. The moral to the story: Flopping doesn’t pay. A few teams that might lead the flopping category: Serbia, Argentina, Brazil, Portugal, Mexico, Nigeria, Croatia, Saudi Arabia, Colombia, and Uruguay.

Arena, Bradley, Klinsmann, and Sarachan – a Brief Coaching Portrait

Bruce Arena made his second stop as coach of the USMNT during the 2018 World Cup qualification campaign.

 Arena has been known as a good organizer and communicator. The players have always seemed to know their place on his teams in a good way. With few exceptions, he preferred a large and bigger players with a strong presence on the field. The interesting thing about Arena is that he has always done very well in domestic competitions. That is, when all the teams are playing the same style (essentially getting the ball down the line and into the box*)( A simplification, though, people within the American soccer community, including Alexi Lalas, have pointed out that Arena is not the biggest Xs and Os coach around), his teams have usually come out ahead. However, his approach—including lineup choices and style of play—has met a tough audience outside of CONCACAF in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, where the style of play was a bit different. Leading up to those campaigns, winning was something Arena was used to.

 As a player, Arena was a goalie (and even played one game with the US national team), and then as coach of Virginia University he won four consecutive NCAA national titles. As coach in the MLS, he’s won five MLS Cups (two with DC United and three with LA Galaxy). He first coached the USMNT from 1998-2006 after replacing Steve Sampson, wherein Arena led the charge in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, along with a few Gold Cup titles.

 Following the 2006 World Cup, Bob Bradley took over and coached during the 2010 World Cup. Bradley was replaced by Jurgen Klinsmann, who coached during the 2014 World Cup, and he was in turn replaced by Bruce Arena. For his second run at coaching the USMNT, Arena inherited a team in flux.

 Jurgen Klinsmann had coached the team to mixed results, albeit a winning record. By the time Klinsmann and the USMNT lost 4-0 to Costa Rica (in 2016), Sunil Gulati—the US Soccer president cleaned house, rehiring Arena. All of this was smack in the middle of World Cup qualifications.

 With some bad luck, the USMNT met a tough opponent in their final World Cup qualification game, losing to Trinidad and Tobago in October of 2017. For the first time since 1986, the US would not qualify for the World Cup.

 Following the loss, Arena resigned as coach. The interim coach who took his place was the experienced Dave Sarachan, a former player and coach at Cornell University, who also played and coached professionally, who also happened to be a longtime associate of Arena.

 The next US coach, whoever that may be, has a fresh group of talent to lead the team into World Cup 2022.

Mexico Football Team: A Brief Team History

 In 1930, Mexico was knocked out of the first ever World Cup in the group phase. In 1934, they didn’t qualify. They didn’t participate in 1938. For World Cups 1950, 1954, 1958, 1962, and 1966, Mexico was eliminated in the group stage. By 1970, as hosts, they improved, making it to the quarterfinals where they lost to Italy. In 1974, they didn’t qualify; in 1978, they were eliminated in the group stage; and for 1982, they again didn’t qualify.

 As hosts, yet again, in 1986, their luck in the world’s largest tournament was going to improve. They were recovering from a major earthquake prior to the tournament, and, as it turned out, the World Cup was a great motivational force to get the nation back on its feet again. Led by Hugo Sanchez, one of their most notorious forwards, Mexico played very well, leading their group which consisted of Paraguay, Belgium, and Iraq.

 They drew a massive audience. Their opener—a 2-1 victory over Belgium—was held in the Estadio Azteca Stadium in front of an estimated 110,000 people, and the crowd chanted, “Mexico…Mexico!” Then, in front of over 114,000 people, they defeated Bulgaria in the second round. But, upon reaching the quarterfinals, they switched venues from Mexico City to Monterrey and lost to West Germany in front of approximately 41,000 spectators. Mexico didn’t compete in 1990.

 Then came the second-round blues. For World Cups 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014, they were eliminated in the round of 16. Based on this record, it may seem as though Mexico will take many years to win the World Cup. They are certainly hoping to raise the trophy sooner, and Russia 2018 represents a perfect opportunity.


Within the realm of CONCACAF, Mexico has a rich tradition of winning. They’ve won multiple championships in the CONCACAF Championship (held from 1963-1989) and the Gold Cup (1991 to the present), including in 1965, 1971, 1977, 1993, 1996, 1998, 2003, 2009, 2011 and 2015.

 As of 2017, Mexico placed fourth in the Confederations Cup in Russia.

Drill and Exercises for Aspiring Soccer Players

Learning to play soccer (especially for individuals aspiring to play competitively) takes a lot of time and dedication. Excelling at any sport is difficult but advanced skills in the sport of soccer can be almost impossible for some athletes to achieve.

Not only do soccer players need to perfect their aim, have quick reflexes and think on their feet but their cardiovascular system needs to be in impeccable shape to last upwards of 90 minutes on the field.

When creating a soccer training program, there are a few specific areas you need to consider. Making sure put the appropriate amount of work into each area will ensure best results. Below are the 3 areas of soccer training every athlete should master before hitting the pitch:

1. Fitness. Soccer players need to be fast and accurate. Speed and agility are two of the most important qualities of a soccer player. To master these skills, try doing at least 50 suicides during every practice.

2. Technique. It’s important to be fast and agile but if you don’t have the skills to support the pace, you’ll be relatively useless on the field. Practicing ball control, kicking, heading, dribbling and tackling during every practice will make sure you nail these techniques during the next big game.

3. Strategy. You can be the fastest player on the pitch with dribbling skills and ball control to boot but if you can’t make up your mind fast enough once you’ve received the ball, you’ll never get the chance to execute your skills. Practicing passing, clearance, and shooting will ensure you’re prepared once you receive the ball.

A consistent workout schedule with elements from each of the three areas above will ensure you’re getting the results you need from your soccer training program. A balance between strength, speed and strategy will make sure that you’re equipped to handle whatever gets thrown at you on the field. With some hard work and dedication, you’ll be the best player on the field next season.

So start working out and getting fit – those goals aren’t going to score themselves.

Uruguay Football Team History

World Cup titles: 2 (1930, 1950)

Dating back many years, the small country of Uruguay has a rich tradition of success in soccer. Uruguay was the first team to win the World Cup in 1930, setting the whole parade in motion. However, they didn’t compete in 1934 or 1938.

 In 1950, twenty years after their first championship, they gained the title again by defeating Brazil on Brazilian soil in front of approximately 200,000 live spectators. For both teams it was a big game, obviously, but for Brazil, it was the game for the time. They hadn’t won a title yet, and they felt something special happening with the game at large; there was something brewing in Brazil, and they knew it. Uruguay had other plans, and they put Brazil in their place, shutting them down and shutting up the crowd. From there on, for Brazilians, the game became known as “the phantom of ‘50.” Uruguay won the final by a score of 2-1. As a result, they were on top of the world. There had been four World Cups. Italy had two, and Uruguay had two. And, to date, that would be the last time Uruguay would win a World Cup

Uruguay National Football Team 1930

 In 1954, after beating England in the quarterfinals and losing to Hungary in the semifinals, Uruguay lost to Austria in the consolation match, taking fourth place overall. For the 1958 World Cup, they didn’t compete. In 1962, they lost out in group play. Things were better in 1966, as they made the quarterfinals.

 World Cup 1970 was even better, as they took fourth place. They beat the USSR in the quarterfinals before losing to Brazil—the eventual champions—in the semis. For the third-place match, they lost to West Germany. They weren’t very fortunate in 1974, losing out in group play. For 1978 and 1982, they didn’t qualify. In 1986, led by Enzo Francescoli, they were eliminated in the round of 16 by Argentina.

 In 1990, they fell to hosts Italy during the round of 16 in Rome in front of over 73,000 fans. For 1994 and 1998, they didn’t qualify. Back in the thick of things in 2002, they failed to get out of group play. It was back to the drawing board in 2006, as they didn’t qualify.

 Then things were looking good again in 2010. Led by the crafty, goal-scoring magic of Luis Suarez and the brilliant creative touch of Diego Forlan, they took first place in their group over Mexico, South Africa, and a disjointed French team. In the round of 16, they defeated South Korea 2-1 with goals from Suarez. In the quarters, they met a talented side from Ghana, who they defeated in penalty kicks. However, they were bested by the Netherlands in the semifinals, which led to another loss to Germany in the thirdplace match, giving them fourth overall. In 2014, Uruguay lost to Colombia in the round of 16 in the Maracana Stadium—the very place they earned a title back in 1950.

Facts About Brazil in Football

Brazil, the land of soccer, is a very interesting place. It’s a large country, geographically and population-wise, with over 206 million people, and a GDP of about 1.5 trillion. The largest city is Sao Paulo with an estimated population of 12 million.

 Historically, Brazil has evidence of human activity likely dating back 11,000 years, as well as pottery found from around 6,000 BC. The Portuguese first established their presence in Brazil back in 1500 AD, only eight years after Christopher Columbus made his voyage across the Atlantic.

 The Lost City of Z, a book written by David Grann, explores the journey of Colonel Fawcett, a British explorer in the early 20th Century, who was mapping the area of Bolivia, Peru, and western Brazil, while also searching for a mythical lost city filled with gold.

 In today’s Brazil, many soccer players search for their own chest of “gold” by way of professional contracts. Brazilian players are highly favored around the world. Cafu is the Brazilian leader in caps, with 142. Pele is the leading scorer, with 77. Pele also has three World Cup titles to his name: 1958, 1962, and 1970.  Brazil is known for great food, including steaks and exotic pizza varieties. As World Cup Russia progresses, many people watching on TV will likely enjoy domestic beer, including Eisenbahn.