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Players and managers aren’t the only powerful people in the football world. These days, certain football agents are more recognisable than the players themselves. Tasked with negotiating big money transfers and getting the best deals for their clients, as well as pocketing some crazy amounts of cash themselves, agents are a hugely important part of the game. To succeed, they must be ruthless, shrewd, and determined, but who are the most powerful agents in the football business? Read on to find out.
Even if he’s getting older, Cristiano Ronaldo is still one of the two biggest names in football alongside Lionel Messi, so it’s only logical that CR7’s agent, Jorge Mendes, leads this list. Mendes, who has been voted ‘Best Agent of the Year’ multiple times at the Globe Soccer Awards, first got into the agency business after meeting Nuno Espirito Santo in a bar and arranging the young goalkeeper’s move to Spain. He built up an incredible reputation over the years for scouting and spotting talent and has plenty of big names on his books including Nicolas Otamendi, Goncalo Guedes, Ruben Neves, Ederson, Bernardo Silva, and James Rodriguez.
Carmine ‘Mino’ Raiola is one of the most recognisable football agents on the planet and has been involved in some of the most high-profile deals of recent years, including Paul Pogba’s big money move to Manchester United in 2016. As well as representing the World Cup winning midfielder, the Italian agent also represents the likes of Mario Balotelli, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marco Verratti, and Romelul Lukaku. Raiola has also got a couple of potential future superstars on his books, including Italian keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma Dutch winger Justin Kluivert, and has developed a reputation for doing everything in his power to get the best possible deal for his clients every single time, much to the annoyance of many football clubs and managers.
Many agents like to specialise in certain leagues or nationalities. For Spanish players over in La Liga, Jose Otin is one of the biggest names in the business. He represents the likes of Asier Illaramendi, Fernando Torres, Nacho Monreal, Javi Martinez, Pedro, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Dani Ceballos, Vitolo, and many others under the umbrella of his football agency: Bahia Internacional. Otin has experience as both a player and a pundit, so he’s familiar with the ins and outs of the game and is a very highly respected figure in his homeland, always ready to snap up the next Spanish star and broker some big money moves.
Pep might be the biggest name in football management, but his brother Pere is a growing presence in the agency field. As part of the Media Base Sports brand, Pere Guardiola represents the likes of Luis Suarez, William Carvalho, and Yuri Berchiche, while also handling his brother’s contracts too. Representing the most in-demand manager in the game is a big job in and of itself, but Pere’s agency has managed to sign a lot of exciting young talent in recent years too including Man City’s Brahim Diaz and Real Betis’ Junior Firpo, so we can expect to see Pere become a bigger player in the agency world as time goes by.
Sports Entertainment Group (SEG)
As we’ve seen in the Nations League and at club level, the Dutch seem to be making a major comeback after a disappointing few years, with a lot of exciting young stars and established older players forming a very strong pool of talent. SEG is the leading name in terms of talent-spotting in the Netherlands, having signed up the likes of Lyon winger Memphis Depay, Inter Milan defender Stefan de Vrij, and Marseille midfielder Kevin Strootman. The likes of Daley Blind, Quincy Promes, and Jasper Cillessen are also on SEG’s books, and the agency has got some very promising young footballers tied down to contracts too including Ajax attacker Kasper Dolberg.
Despite some struggles at international level in recent years, Brazil remains one of the best footballing nations on the planet, with a seemingly never-ending list of young talents springing up on the streets of Rio every single year. Giuliano Bertolucci is one of the top men for identifying those potential future superstars and tying them down to his agency: Euro Export Assessoria E Propaganda Ltda. Some of the biggest names on his books at the moment include PSG centre back Marquinhos, West Ham winger and playmaker Felipe Anderson, and Chelsea’s veteran defender David Luiz. Bertolucci has enjoyed a great relationship with Chelsea in particular, helping them sign the likes of Ramires, Oscar, and Willian over the years.
The main man for German talent, Volker Struth has a long list of high profile clients including Toni Kroos of Real Madrid, Marco Reus of Borussia Dortmund, and Reus’ teammate, Julian Weigl. One of the biggest deals in Struth’s career came in 2014 when he orchestrated the move of Kroos from Munich to Madrid. The German super-agent has a real knack for fishing out young talent before anyone else and actually signed up a teenage Mario Götze before anyone had really heard of the youngster. Struth went on to make Götze the most expensive German player in history before the pair’s working relationship ultimately came to an end.
Unique Sports Management
There are a few big names when it comes to agents and agencies in the English game, but Unique Sports Management is definitely leading the pack by a long way at the moment. The number one name on their list is Harry Kane himself, who could easily command a world record fee if ever he decides to move on from Tottenham. Recent England debutant Callum Wilson is another player signed up with Unique Sports Management, with Fulham’s teenage sensation Ryan Sessegnon and Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha also being tied to this agency. Jamaal Lascelles, Pedro Obiang, Tom Cairney, and Aaron Cresswell are a few other notable names on the list.
Founder and chairman of Stellar Group Limited, Jonathan Barnett is one of the most successful agents of all time and has excelled in multiple sports, including boxing and cricket, but has really made a name for himself in footballing circles. He was the man behind Gareth Bale’s headline-grabbing £86 million move from Spurs to Real Madrid in 2013. For that move alone, Barnett pocketed around £14 million. Since then, he’s also engineered moves for many of his other high-profile clients like Luke Shaw, Gylfi Sigurdsson, and Adam Lallana. The likes of Joe Hart and Grzegorz Krychowiak are also on Barnett’s books, giving his agency a good mixture of talents from many different countries.
One of the fastest growing agencies in football, Lian Sports has an astonishing list of talent to rival the biggest names in the business, with more and more established players and rising stars being added each year. This agency specializes in the Serie A, with some of the Italian league’s top stars like Miralem Pjanic and Kalidou Koulibaly being signed up with Lian Sports. Croatian superstar Ivan Perisic is another big name on the list, alongside Chelsea’s prolific left-back Marcos Alonso. Some exciting young talents are also being managed by Lian Sports like Turkey and Roma winger Cengiz Ünder.