October 5, 2022

The Hollywood Merger That Could Reshape Soccer’s Transfer Market

There is one element of Erkut Sogut’s debut novel that, he admits, belongs squarely in the realm of fantasy. Soccer is not, he wants to emphasize, actually controlled by a cabal of superagents who will resort to anything — sabotage, match-fixing, kidnapping, murder — to keep the game and its riches in their vise.

Everything else, he maintains, is real. More than that, in fact: The plot of his book, “Deadline,” a thriller set against the backdrop of soccer’s transfer market, is drawn from firsthand experience. Sogut has spent 15 years as an agent, and he is best known for his longstanding association with Mesut Özil, the onetime Arsenal, Real Madrid and Germany playmaker. It is a world, he said, that does not demand a great deal of poetic license.

The portrait of the industry he paints is not a flattering one. His characters are, by and large, hucksters and vultures, charlatans and sharks, operating in a sport rife with corruption and addled with cronyism. It is, though, intrinsically familiar: Soccer has grown accustomed to the depiction of agents as puppet masters in sharp suits and designer sunglasses, wielding ultimate influence over the fates of players and teams.

That image, though, the one that suffuses Sogut’s novel, does not quite capture the reality of the industry as it stands now. The likes of Jorge Mendes — consigliere to Cristiano Ronaldo and José Mourinho — may be cast as rainmakers possessed of sufficient clout to bend the whole market to their will, but they increasingly seem like the exception, rather than the rule. The world of agents is in convulsion, soccer’s latest battleground between new money and old hands.

Though FIFA’s controversial decision, in 2015, to deregulate the industry opened the doors to any family member or friend who wanted to sign up to represent a player — a move that turned a chaotic and irrevocably murky world into a “complete free-for-all,” as one agent put it — the most significant new entrants in recent years have not been cowboy operators hoping to make a quick buck but established corporations panning for new fortunes.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/15/sports/soccer/soccer-transfers-agents.html

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