Jim White

Agents’ culture of greed driving summer of discontent

Jim White

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We are now in the summer of footballing discontent. Everywhere you look there are players railing against the inhuman circumstance under which they are obliged to work, the almost slave-like conditions which govern their daily lives.

There’s Gareth Bale, hurt by Spurs’ refusal to let him chat with Real Madrid, a position Zinedine Zidane – whose objectivity cannot be doubted simply because he has a position at Madrid - reckons is tantamount to human rights abuse.

There’s Wayne Rooney, hurt by David Moyes’s lacerating observation that he might, perhaps, maybe not be first choice in his favoured position. There’s Papiss Cisse hurt by Newcastle United’s sponsorship deal with the payday loan sharks Wonga, which might well be reckoned a legitimate moral stand, had his religious sensibilities been remotely disturbed by the fact he had previously worn Virgin Money’s logo on his chest, an organisation which is hardly innocent of the concept of adding interest to any loan they offer.

And then there is poor Luis Suarez, seemingly hurt by the fact the only club currently showing the remotest keenness to sign him are Arsenal. He was clearly hoping for something a little better, a little more based in Madrid, for instance.

So there we are, four men reluctantly obliged to turn out in the shirts of Spurs, Manchester United, Newcastle United and Liverpool.

Never mind that there are approaching 3,000 professional footballers in this country whose life’s ambition would be fulfilled by no more than five minutes running out in one of those shirts, never mind that the tens of thousands of supporters of those four grand old clubs would give most of their limbs for the opportunity to grace the institution they love, never mind the fact that all four players earn more in a week than most of their paymasters in the grandstands (which is what the fans are) earn in four years, apparently these guys are suffering from the most egregious working environment since young boys stopped being obliged to climb chimneys for a living. Poor lambs.

We know why this is being done: players' agents benefit financially from the movement of their clients, and therefore need constantly to agitate for moves.

There is, perhaps, marginal playing logic behind some of the intention to change clubs: Suarez and Bale would probably benefit from playing in the Champions League, Rooney might have a nicer time if he could be the number one striker, Cisse might be able to move a bit quicker if he wasn’t based in a town where he is obliged to play in gloves in the summer. But these can be quickly dismissed.

Indeed, if an agent were a proper career development adviser rather than an income parasite, then he might point out that if Bale and Suarez are so keen to participate in Europe’s top competition then why not hang around and help their current clubs qualify. And if Rooney really wants to be the number one main man then why not buckle down under the new regime and make himself indispensable?

Though we know full well why the moves are being manufactured, agents like to dress them up as matters of principle, disguise their greed behind an illusion of righteousness. It is a public relations exercise, hoping to deflect attention away from the fact these transfers are based on baser motives.

Sure, some transfers undoubtedly improve the careers of the young and ambitious. But not these. In cases of such elevated players, they are not to do with the best interests of the players. They are derived to maintain the cash flow of their advisers.

It is comical. Bale, Rooney and Suarez are all employed under the most benevolent of terms. If they weren’t, if they really were subject to the contractual demands of slave-drivers, then maybe some blame ought to be directed to those who drew up those contracts in the first place. You know, like their agents. But we all know the truth: they are merely seeking moves in order further to enrich those self-same advisers.

It would be nice if the football fan was treated like an adult and addressed as if he were not dumb. Why pretend there are grander forces at work here? Why the pathetic insistence that this is all the fault of clubs with their lack of ambition and refusal properly to invest?

What a breath of fresh air it would be were a leading player to stand up one summer and say, 'look, from a footballing perspective I couldn’t be better placed than I am, the only reason I’m looking to move is because my agent fancies a new Ferrari and I’m too pitifully narcissistic to see beyond his short-termist machinations.'

Because frankly, that is the truth.

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