Jermaine Jenas exclusive: Oliver Burke's transfer to RB Leipzig reeks of an agent taking advantage of a promising but vulnerable young player

Jermaine Jenas exclusive: Oliver Burke's transfer to RB Leipzig reeks of an agent taking advantage of a promising but vulnerable young player

When I heard that Oliver Burke had moved to Germany from my old club Nottingham Forest, my first thought was that he must have moved to Bayern Munich. He's a special talent, and everybody I've spoken to in the game has been watching him.

So I was surprised to learn that rather than being transferred to the Allianz Arena, he was in fact on his way to RB Leipzig - a club founded by an energy drink in 2009 that has just gained promotion to the Bundesliga.

In fact I wasn't just surprised, I was also extremely concerned. It's a transfer that stinks of an agent earning a lot of money out of it.

I can relate to Burke's story especially well because I was in a very similar position to him when I was at Forest at roughly the same age. Burke is 19, while I was 18 when I moved from the City Ground to Newcastle in 2002.

Just as Burke has only made 13 starts for Forest, I'd only played from the start of the season until December before I left. I hadn't even completed a full season. In fact, people were trying to sign me when I was in the youth team at Forest and hadn't even played a single game.

One big difference, I suspect - and I do sincerely hope I'm wrong about this - is that whoever is looking after Burke does not have his best interests at heart. Unless there is some kind of link that we don't know about between Leipzig and Bayern, for him to go there makes no sense whatsoever.

I appreciate that the Bundesliga is a respected league, and also that if Burke does well in Leipzig then he may get a move to another club. However, there were plenty of other clubs rumoured to have been interested - Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, for example - and that might been a more logical next step.

Emil Forsberg of Leipzig celebrates after scoring his team's first goal during the Second Bundesliga match between RB Leipzig and Karlsruher SC
Emil Forsberg of Leipzig celebrates after scoring his team's first goal during the Second Bundesliga match between RB Leipzig and Karlsruher SC

Leipzig have come in and offered £13m in one lump sum, which is obviously difficult for Forest to turn down. The club have been on a meteoric rise from the German fifth tier with Red Bull's huge financial backing, but I wouldn't be surprised if there's also a agent making a fortune out of this move.

Whether it will be quite as profitable for the player, I'm not sure.

If my agent had come to me when I was leaving Forest at 18 and said "we've got an offer on the table from RB Leipzig", I would have had to question his motives immediately.

I would have said, "I don't even know who they are!" And I don't just mean because they hadn't actually been formed when I was 18. Even now, a lot of people were Googling RB Leipzig the moment this transfer was announced.

This might sound disrespectful to the German side, and I accept that there are new clubs coming into the game, but I just don't think this can be viewed as a good move for the player.

Agents have long had an influential role in the careers of promising young players. I remember walking out of Forest's ground with Gareth Williams, who used to play in the same side as me, and his agent was waiting for him in the car park.

Gaz suggested I "have a word with him" and I was like, "You what?" He said, "Just listen to what he has to say." So I sat in the agent's car while he promised me Nike deals and much more. I was 15 years old.

I wasn't interested - I didn't know the guy. That's not to say that the agent I eventually ended up with was the best in the world, but I knew who he was and I trusted him at that particular time.

LEIPZIG, GERMANY - MAY 08: Fans of Leipzig celebrate during the Second Bundesliga match between RB Leipzig and Karlsruher SC at Red Bull Arena on May 08, 2016 in Leipzig, Saxony. (Photo by Boris Streubel/Bongarts/Getty Images)
LEIPZIG, GERMANY - MAY 08: Fans of Leipzig celebrate during the Second Bundesliga match between RB Leipzig and Karlsruher SC at Red Bull Arena on May 08, 2016 in Leipzig, Saxony. (Photo by Boris Streubel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

When you look back on your career, you obviously think about the decisions you made and wonder whether you made the right ones. But speaking personally, and also for my friends in football, you are always thinking about what's best for your career.

A good agent will always have that in mind too. And in my opinion, a good agent would have told Oliver Burke that RB Leipzig was not the right move for him, irrespective of a £13m bid being made.

If I was Burke, I would have been looking at playing for a Premier League or a top European club - even if that meant having another year at Forest in a loan-back arrangement.

When I left Forest as a teenager, I didn't actually want to go to Newcastle. I wanted to go to Leeds. In fact I was desperate to go there, purely for geographical reasons.

Newcastle felt like another country and I was nervous about going that far away when I was 18 years old. Plus, I knew players at Leeds, such as Rio Ferdinand and Robbie Keane and some of the younger players.

But my agent wouldn't let me. He knew there were financial problems at Elland Road and he advised me that Newcastle was a better move. Manchester United wanted me too (although they were only offering half the money), so maybe I should have gone there. Or maybe not. I'll never really know.

But what I do know for sure is that if friends of mine who made moves when they were young (such as Wayne Rooney when he left Everton or Robbie Keane when he left Wolves or Coventry) had been told they were going to Leipzig, they would have point-blank refused.

I don't mean that as an accusation at Burke. I think it's more a case of young players being guided by people they trust, but who are not necessarily putting their interests first.

I remember going into the boardroom at Forest, at a time when there were rumours about me leaving, and being offered a new five-year contract.

Oliver Burke of Nottingam Forest.
Oliver Burke of Nottingam Forest.

I was like, "OK, cool" and signed it. A month later, they sold me! Looking back, that's a bit weird. Did they get more money for me because of the length of the contract? I don't even know for sure. I was just being led by people I had trusted since I was 14. A lot of decisions were taken out of my hands.

Even that ultimate decision of which club to choose, out of the three that wanted me, I'm not sure I made myself.

The club needed the money. The gaffer told me Manchester United had offered £3m, Leeds had offered £5m and Newcastle had offered £5m. His next sentence was that there was a car from Newcastle that was an hour away. It takes three hours to get from Newcastle to Nottingham, so you do the maths!

That tells me I was being heavily guided down a certain road - literally, in fact. That was partly because of the club's own financial situation and partly because they probably genuinely believed that was the best move for me at the time.

When you're young, you don't have much control and I doubt Burke has had much control over his move to Germany. I just hope he performs in the Bundesliga and that either this club progress to become a top club, or he earns a move somewhere else.

I've met Burke and he comes across as a nice, humble, fairly shy lad. He was just delighted to be at Forest and that things were going well. He had a bit of confidence too, but overall he seems like a lovely kid.

I hope the people surrounding him know something I don't about this move, and that they've got something good planned for him. But right now, it reeks of a young player being taken advantage of for financial gain.

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