Today, football agents and agencies are unimaginably important. They can make or break a player – even a team, should that club find itself beholden to Mr 10%.
It would be a stretch to say agents are football’s new rock stars. However, with the staggering sums of money being invested in their clients, and the amounts the agents are then due, they wouldn’t miss the odd car driven into a swimming pool.
Yet identifying and ranking football’s most influential agents isn’t easy. If we thought it was difficult putting together our 100 Best Players in the World list, or our 50 Best Managers countdown, at least we didn’t have to contend with contracts shrouded in secrecy and people who prefer to remain in the shadows. (Credit: TransferMarkt for their list of agencies.)
And how does one define ‘influence’? Does somebody like Pere Guardiola, with a relatively small client base but one featuring the biggest players and managers, have a bigger impact on the game than an agency representing several hundred footballers spread across the globe? Perhaps – but not in all cases. This list doesn’t include some huge players’ representatives, because their reach is limited by their focus.
Still, honourable mentions are due to IFM, who represent David Silva and Santi Cazorla; IMG (Gerard Pique, Ander Herrera); ASA (Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic) and Christophe Henrotay, whose dozen Belgian clients include Thibaut Courtois and Yannick Carrasco.
Now, on with the Top 20. And FFT’s countdown begins with a British classic…
20. Base Soccer Agency
They’ve been around since the 1990s and have dozens of established Premier League and Football League players on their books, so it’s no wonder Base Soccer enjoy a fine reputation. A head office in trendy Soho belies a company with tentacles spread across the UK (they’ve an intriguingly high number of players currently or previously at Welsh clubs).
Plenty of young, hungry talents have also been scouted and snapped up by the agency. With a roster of consultants and intermediaries including several ex-pros, from Australia international Vincenzo Grella to defender ‘One Size’ Fitz Hall, Base aren’t slow to spot potential.
Top 5 clients: Aaron Ramsey, Andre Ayew, Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Ashley Young.
19. Fernando Felicevich
Representing all of Chile’s biggest stars, Felicevich is personally worth some £17 million, yet he’s known for being almost a father figure to several of his players.
He’s also on Twitter, at @ffelicevich, where his profile picture suggests he’s not in fact a football agent but a rather chipper sun.
Top 5 clients: Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal, Claudio Bravo, Gary Medel, Angelo Henriquez.
Vamoooossss June 27, 2016
18. PRO Profil (Thomas Kroth)
As a player, Thomas Kroth never won a league title and his single West Germany cap came in a home defeat to Hungary. As an agent, his charges have been somewhat more successful.
PRO Profil’s clients include World Cup and Golden Glove winner Manuel Neuer, Premier League champion Shinji Okazaki and several members of Bundesliga-winning teams. Young footballers in Germany seeking an agent could do far worse than see what Kroth has to offer them.
Top 5 clients: Manuel Neuer, Shinji Kagawa, Shinji Okazaki, Kevin Volland, Patrick Herrmann.
17. FirstEleven ISM
Some might say FirstEleven ISM could try to stand out more considering their role in life – they share a name with more than one football agency, for a start – but it hasn’t stopped the Cologne-based company from attracting a number of well-known footballers to their stable.
Top 5 clients: Fabian Delph, Vincent Janssen, Dejan Lovren, Mathieu Valbuena, Francis Coquelin.
16. Kick and Run Sports Management
Kick and Run have a growing number of up-and-coming footballers in their ranks, from Monaco right-back Fabinho to Borussia Moenchengladbach centre-back Andreas Christensen, although they also look after big-name Premier League stars at Arsenal and Chelsea.
Pleasingly, their offices are in Dusseldorf and Canary Wharf, which is fun to say.
Top 5 clients: Willian, Fabinho, Danny Welbeck, Andreas Christensen, Gabriel.
15. Key Sports Management
“Are agents corrupt? Not all – but the majority. Abroad, the English game is considered ‘the dirty man of Europe’. We are the worst. I can’t argue with the public seeing us as the scum of the Earth.”
If there’s one criticism that cannot be levelled at Key Sports agent Colin Gordon, ex-Swindon player and occasional caretaker manager at Kidderminster, it’s a lack of candour. In 2006, his startling claims of bungs and dodgy transfer fees were highly controversial, not least as he was agent to England manager Steve McClaren and that year’s surprise World Cup pick, 17-year-old Theo Walcott. His comments caused quite the fuss.
Today, Key Sports pride themselves on off-field support handled by their ‘Player Services Managers’ – everything from arranging holidays and house moves to helping Fabrice Muamba through his recovery. Naturally, they work primarily with young players, including Liverpool’s Joe Gomez and serial Chelsea loanee Nathan Aké.
Top 5 clients: Jamie Vardy, Theo Walcott, Jordan Henderson, Ryan Bertrand, Phil Jones.
14. Manuel Garcia Quilon
Sometimes, Manuel Garcia Quilon must sit in his Madrid office and think wistfully of 2013. That year, the agent brokered Diego Lopez’s January transfer to Real Madrid, before arranging summer moves for Jose Callejon, Raul Albiol and Pepe Reina, all joining a Napoli team beginning life under Rafa Benitez – also his client. It was some annus mirabilis.
Things haven’t been quite so sweet since, and in six months all of Quilon’s players will be the wrong side of 30. However, he said in 2011 that he plans to retire around this time, which explains why he isn’t pursuing new clients.
Top 5 clients: Rafa Benitez, Filipe Luis, Pepe Reina, Javi Garcia, Alvaro Arbeloa.
13. Europe Sports Group
Despite their name, Europe Sports Group are in fact big in Brazil. Their influence lies in their number and location.
Europe Sports Group represent some 600-700 players, most of them South American, many of those Brazilian. The company’s name and branding implies to prospective young clients that they know a career-changing European move can be found for any Tom, Dick and Harry… or, to be precise, Bill, Mike or Arthur. Brazilian footballers’ names are great.
Top 5 clients: Vitinho, Wanderson, Emanuel Insua, Albert Adomah, Juan Carlos Paredes.
12. Bahia Internacional (Jose Otin)
Despite their name, Bahia Internacional are in fact not big in Brazil. The agency is based in Madrid, founded at the turn of the century by former player, pundit and radio host Jose Otin.
‘Peton’, as he’s known, is a highly respected figure in Spain, and his reputation helped him to land some of the country’s biggest stars at some of the world’s biggest clubs. Right now, Bahia’s roster includes Bayern Munich’s Javi Martinez, Chelsea’s Pedro, Arsenal’s Nacho Monreal and Manchester City’s Jesus Navas. They have players spread across La Liga, too, from Asier Illarramendi at Real Sociedad and Raul Garcia at Athletic to Dani Parejo at Valencia and Vitolo at Sevilla.
Bahia haven’t got much change out of Michu lately, having made an unexpected star out of him at Swansea, but they have helped to revitalise Fernando Torres at Atletico Madrid. Well, Peton is an Atleti supporter, after all…
Top 5 clients: Pedro, Javi Martinez, Fernando Torres, Dani Parejo, Borja Baston.
11. MJF Publicidade e Promocoes (Juan Figer and Wagner Ribeiro)
Once upon a time, MJF were huge – not just eating at the big table but carving the turkey. After all, 16 years ago they were responsible for Luis Figo controversially swapping Camp Nou for the Bernabeu. Later, they got Robinho his moves from Santos to Real Madrid and from Real Madrid to Manchester City.
Perhaps inevitably, Juan Figer and Wagner Ribeiro’s influence now can’t match those heady days. Oh, they represent some guy called Neymar – in fact they tried to flog him to Chelsea in 2010, except Santos weren’t having it – but it’s the player’s father who calls the shots.
Top 5 clients: Neymar, Hulk, Lucas Moura, Robinho, Kleberson.
10. SportsTotal (Volker Struth)
Breaking up is hard to do. Nobody knows that more than Volker Struth. The agent picked up Mario Götze as a fresh-faced teenager (not that he’ll ever be anything other than fresh-faced) but at the end of last season, after six years together, they divided up the CDs and said goodbye.
Struth had proclaimed in the summer of 2015 that Götze – now with Borussia Dortmund but then preparing to begin a new season at Bayern Munich under Pep Guardiola – “feels like the coach doesn’t have faith in him”. Struth added: “Guardiola has destroyed Götze.” The divorce between player and agent was amicable, yet inevitable.
Still, Struth can console himself that if there’s plenty more fish in the sea, many of them would be content to swim into his net. The SportsTotal agency will be in the mind of any footballer from or based in Germany and in need of representation.
Top 5 clients: Toni Kroos, Marco Reus, Benedikt Howedes, Josip Drmic, Gonzalo Castro.
9. Sports Entertainment Group
SEG have fingers in cycling and music pies as well as football. Being Dutch, though, their biggest involvement is in the sport of Johan Cruyff.
The 15-year-old company have sewn up a substantial part of the Dutch football market, although the national team’s decline hasn’t helped them much. The likes of Robin van Persie and Jeremain Lens aren’t the draws they once were.
There’s still plenty of young talent around, however, and SEG have worked hard to snap it up at home and abroad. And when the Oranje finally do get their act together, SEG’s players won’t be far away.
Top 5 clients: Memphis Depay, Kevin Strootman, Stefan de Vrij, Thomas Vermaelen, Cedric Soares.
Any Liverpool fans wondering how Roberto Firmino made his way from Figueirense to Anfield have ROGON to thank. Based in Germany but with a strong presence in Brazil, ROGON were responsible for the Bundesliga breaks of Firmino and Luiz Gustavo, both with Hoffenheim, before Gustavo moved to Bayern Munich, then Wolfsburg. The pair won’t be the last future Seleção stars to get their big move through the agency, who also represent Bayern’s Rafinha.
ROGON’s Bundesliga stable isn’t all Brazilian, however. Their young German talents include Julian Draxler and Max Meyer, while goalkeeper Loris Karius recently joined Firmino at Liverpool.
Top 5 clients: Roberto Firmino, Luiz Gustavo, Julian Draxler, Ricardo Rodriguez, Marcel Schmelzer.
Barcelona-based Promoesport aren’t a name on everyone’s lips when it comes to football agencies, but they’re one to watch.
The 15-year-old company represents several players making up the next generation of global stars, including 22-year-old Eric Bailly, who joined Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United for £30m this summer, Barcelona’s Aleix Vidal and until recently his Blaugrana team-mate Denis Suarez, whose move to Camp Nou ironically signalled the end of his time with the agency.
But Promoesport remain ambitious. In just five years one office became six, spread across Spain, and they’re also working to identify future pros in seven African countries.
Top 5 clients: Eric Bailly, Denis Suarez, Aleix Vidal, Adama Traoré, Diego Alves.
6. Euro Export Assessoria e Propaganda Ltd (Giuliano Bertolucci)
He represented his nation at water polo and most Europeans are more familiar with his partner, Kia Joorabchian, yet the man they call Giuliano Bertolucci (because that’s his name) is responsible for a lot of Brazilian players joining the Premier League.
Chelsea, in particular, are big fans of his work. Bertolucci has helped the Blues to sign Alex, Ramires, Oscar, Willian, Nathan, David Luiz – twice – and Lucas Piazon. Elsewhere in London, QPR were grateful for the Brazilian agent’s services in arranging Julio Cesar’s capture, as were Tottenham when they signed Heurelho Gomes, then Sandro, then Paulinho (hindsight’s 20/20).
Not only is Bertolucci the go-to guy for Brazilian footballers wanting a big move; he also, despite that seemingly parochial client base, has no small impact on the Premier League. Think how different things might’ve been had he not persuaded Chelsea to gazump Spurs for Willian at the last minute. That’s power.
Top 5 clients: Marquinhos, David Luiz, Oscar, Willian, Juan Jesus.
5. Stellar Group (Jonathan Barnett)
“If I’m cold and callous, I don’t care. What frustrates me is the lack of understanding by FIFA and the FA of what a proper agency does. It’s absolutely ridiculous that they come up with rules when nobody knows what they’re talking about. They haven’t got a clue.”
Jonathan Barnett speaks his mind. And while he may look like a slightly melted Daniel Levy, he’s powerful, and knows it: in that same Guardian interview, he said: “We’re the largest football agency – Jorge Mendes is probably the only person close to us. I keep reminding him of that Bale deal. I’m sure he’s looking for some way to break it.”
“That Bale deal” was the world record transfer fee, negotiated by Barnett, for Gareth Bale to join Real Madrid. It has indeed been broken – but by Mino Raiola and Paul Pogba. Maybe Mendes isn’t the only agent ‘close to’ Stellar Group.
Top 5 clients: Gareth Bale, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Joe Hart, Luke Shaw, Ashley Cole.
4. Media Base Sports (Pere Guardiola and Jaume Roures)
When it comes to football stars’ brothers, none are more important than Pere Guardiola. The Catalan handles affairs for his big bro, Pep, and whiles away any spare time by looking after the various needs of Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta. Yawn.
Pere owns 55 per cent of Media Base Sports, with agent Jaume Roures responsible for the other 45. And while Pep and El Pistolero are easily the biggest names attached, the wide-ranging company also scouts and then represents a great many academy players at some of the world’s biggest clubs.
In short, Media Base Sports aren’t going anywhere.
Top 5 clients: Pep Guardiola, Luis Suarez, Andres Iniesta, Thiago Alcantara, Pedro Obiang.
3. Mondial Sport Management
Is there any agency in any sport as good as Mondial at finding lucrative moves for their clients? From the unexpected (Pato to Chelsea) to the undeserved (Moussa Sissoko to Tottenham), their transfer deals virtually resemble alchemy – especially when you consider the fee paid by Spurs, not to mention by Zenit St Petersburg for Axel Witsel and Jiangsu Suning for Ramires.
Mondial don’t just shill mercenaries, however. Several of their players, Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez and Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris among them, have stayed loyal to a club in spite of interest from bigger ones.
Among the agency’s regular customers are Chelsea, who’ve signed half a dozen Mondial players including the aforementioned Ramires and Pato, Leicester (Mahrez, N’Golo Kante, Nampalys Mendy) and Newcastle. Don’t believe us, Magpies fans? Just ask Sissoko, or Yohan Cabaye. Or Aleksandar Mitrovic. Or Hatem Ben Arfa, Emmanuel Riviere, Mathieu Debuchy, Remy Cabella, Florian Thauvin, Henri Saivet…
Top 5 clients: Douglas Costa, Philippe Coutinho, Dimitri Payet, Edinson Cavani, Riyad Mahrez.
2. Mino Raiola
Ex-pizzaman Raiola always gets his slice. The sum he pocketed for masterminding Paul Pogba’s record-breaking transfer is eye-boggling, estimated to be around £20-25 million. He’s just bought Al Capone’s Miami mansion (don’t tell him what happens at the end of The Untouchables, for God’s sake).
But let’s not kid ourselves that Raiola got lucky. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The 48-year-old is an extremely skilled negotiator – so much so, you almost feared for Ed Woodward whenever he entered a meeting room with him. Whatever the price, Woodward got his men: Raiola’s three biggest clients joined Manchester United, following the Trojan horse that was Sergio Romero.
Power and money, money and power… Raiola's living the dream of every football agent – and pizzaman.
Top 5 clients: Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mario Balotelli, Romelu Lukaku.
1. Gestifute (Jorge Mendes)
- READ THIS Who is Jorge Mendes? The super-agent making football moves happen
Who else could it be, but the man Cristiano Ronaldo called “the Cristiano Ronaldo of football agents”? In 1966, something happened that would have a lasting effect on English football. Jorge Mendes was born.
Today, the 50-year-old’s power almost knows no bounds. In England, his introduction of Jose Mourinho changed everything. And with Mourinho came more Mendes clients to Chelsea: Deco, Tiago, Hilario, Ricardo Carvalho, Ricardo Quaresma, Paulo Ferreira – and, more recently, Diego Costa (well worth it) and Radamel Falcao (not so much).
Falcao could be Mendes in microcosm. The agent’s influence is such that good clubs can make bad signings. Manchester United, for example, also signed Falcao, as well as Bebé, Anderson and Angel Di Maria. Even a strong appointment such as Mourinho seems to have been made more on Mendes’s terms than the club’s.
Meanwhile, good players can pick up huge pay packets at not-so-huge clubs. Monaco reintroduced themselves to the world stage by signing Mendes trio Falcao (him again), James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho. Only James left, since replaced by Mendes’s latest Portuguese sensation, Bernardo Silva. Intriguingly, two big Mendes clients have just joined second-tier Wolves (after he signed a partnership deal with a subsidiary group of the Championship side's new owners, Fosun).
Then there’s the small matter of Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid forward’s relentless drive for self-improvement – and, arguably, self-importance – should not be underestimated, but it was Mendes who turned him into a global superstar.
Jorge Mendes isn’t just football’s most influential agent. He’s arguably football’s most important figure. Is that a good or a bad thing? It’s up to you to decide.
Top 5 clients: Jose Mourinho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Renato Sanches, William Carvalho, Thiago Silva.
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