Football’s future should have Mino Raiola waking up in cold sweat during the months ahead.
Until now, the Italian super agent appeared virtually untouchable; with a stable of truly elite-level players that includes Erling Haaland, Matthijs de Ligt, Marco Verratti and Paul Pogba.
Raiola’s ability to hawk them across Europe had the game’s great and good eating from the palm of his hand, while often paying both him and his clients handsomely for the privilege.
But the larger-than-life intermediary’s scheming threatens to soon come crashing down around him as clubs begin their coronavirus afterlife in earnest by shunning previous norms.
More than ever, technology is playing an active role in football as it continues to recover from the impact of Covid-19.
Games behind closed doors have allowed fans to bypass the turnstiles and remain a visible presence in the stands on match days through electronic innovation.
Cutting out the middleman has extended to the process of buying and selling players with the advent of Transfer Room, a marketplace that allows teams to conduct their business virtually.
Glowing testimonies from Sevilla’s transfer guru Monchi and key recruitment figures at Manchester City, Nice and New York Red Bulls already feature on the company’s website, alongside the badges of Juventus, Benfica, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Anderlecht.
TESTED BY EPL CLUBS
Representatives from 250 clubs globally, including 13 within the English Premier League, road-tested the platform last week in a series of one-on-one video calls over a 10-minute period.
Transfer Room’s foolproof methodology allows only negotiations for players listed as available, rather than paving the way for unsolicited approaches for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Principles used for online speed dating mean that clubs will be able to “swipe right” on those they are keen to sign, without needing to haggle over the finer details with Raiola and Co.
Subscription to Transfer Room costs up to £2,500 (S$4,400) monthly for now, a huge saving in costs, considering the massive amounts paid to agents as commission.
Before the coronavirus, agents had become football’s highest-grossing sector, as proven by Fifa’s 2019 report that attributed £501 million paid to them in international transfers.
Europe’s top five leagues were ranked as the worst offenders, alongside Portugal, whose third-party commissions outweighed actual transfers.
Between February 2018 and January 2019, Liverpool’s agents’ fees of £43.8 million amounted to more than it had cost them to sign Fabinho.
Stripping back and even nullifying the influence of Raiola and his ilk is something of an overdue move.
For too long, they have hogged the headlines to discuss the next destination of highly sought players that often detract from their own clients’ on-field performances and exploits.
With great power, however, does come great responsibility.
The prospect of this ground-breaking portal being exploited for unscrupulous ends is one which must be guarded against.
Liverpool’s alleged hacking of City’s scouting database between 2012 and 2013, just before they became bona fide EPL title rivals, proves that all clubs are susceptible to one-upmanship.
It was also claimed that the act led to the arrivals of Fernandinho and Jesus Navas at the Etihad Stadium being fast-tracked for fear that their rivals would beat them to the punch.
Money is likely to be tighter as football adjusts to “the new normal”, with more than £7 billion expected to be trimmed from transfer valuations in Europe’s leading domestic tiers alone.
Yet, the increased demand for players means that teams will invariably find themselves in direct competition for targets and facing a hope and a prayer of outdoing each other in the market.
The death of the super agent will be a welcome one, but its replacement must be watertight.