The people in football who do the majority of their work behind the scenes receive widespread criticism from many. The truth is, you will need an agent in your career and they should be your most trusted ally in the football world.
What is a football agent?
An agent is someone who handles matters off of the pitch for the players – their clients. More often than not they are a part of an agency and most will have a vast portfolio of players they represent and look after at any one time.
A football agent is required to be registered with their governing body, so in England the FA, before being able to represent players legally.
So what do agents do?
Being an agent comes with many responsibilities but the main one is to get you the best deals.
They are there to represent you and handle any contract negotiations. They should be advising and guiding you through career decisions but also matters off the pitch.
Although they are important in any decisions for your football career, they can be just as important in decisions off of the pitch and in your everyday life. They should be advising and helping you with matters like;
- Contract negotiations
- Sponsorship deals
- Day to day advice – cars, housing, etc
- Financial planning
- Post-career options
- Career management
Anything that is going to make your life less stressful, which gives you more time to concentrate on the most important thing – your performance.
Agents should be helping you with anything that can help you as a player, but also for things after your career has finished.
They should be your harshest critic, fighting your corner in everything, a shoulder to cry on, advising you on life choices, ensuring you’re living correctly and much more.
Are football agents good or bad for my career?
Just like anything in the world, you will have those who are very good at their job but also those who aren’t so good.
Agents are normally only as good as their players. They will only be able to earn money through you performing well and earning new contracts and endorsements.
A good agent should be like a close friend. They have to be dependable and trustworthy. At the end of the day, they represent you in any dealings with clubs and businesses, so you should always be on the same page and they should always have your best interests at heart.
Why do football agents have a bad reputation?
Everybody goes to work to make money. Agents are no different. However, there are agents who will force certain situations, purely for financial gain.
Agents have been known to force through contracts and transfers for their clients because there is something in it for them. Most of the time that is for financial gain but there are other reasons, like trying to keep important people within football clubs happy for future needs.
Agents receive fees from the deals that they sort for players and clubs. It is normally a percentage of the amount the player will receive over the length of their contract.
Although many will think that the life of an agent is glamourous and straightforward, it isn’t all as seems. Whilst those who represent world-renowned stars, like Cristiano Ronaldo for example, will earn millions, the agents who work with players not on such lucrative contracts won’t even earn a fraction of that amount.
That is why the world of agents is so cutthroat and ruthless. Every agent will want to have a star on their books and some are willing to go to extreme lengths to sign/poach players from other agencies.
Most clubs prefer not to deal with them because they will try to squeeze the best deal possible for their player, which means more money being paid by clubs. Also, using an agent costs the club more as they will have to pay a fee to the agent for negotiating the deal. It would be much easier and cost-efficient for clubs to deal directly with players in contract negotiations, hence why further down the leagues you go, you will find clubs trying to cut agents out of negotiations.
My experience with football agents
Before I turned 16, my Dad already had agents contacting him and trying to get me to sign with them. Some had some big hitters already on their books and used their names as a tool to try and wow us. If anything, this put us off because the conversation become all about that player and what the agent had done for their career, instead of how they could help me.
My Dad received advice from different people in the game and those who had experienced the same thing we were going through. We were advised to stay clear of certain agents (one who has since been found to do things illegally) and who would be good for my career.
All I’ve ever wanted from an agent was someone who I could trust would always be there when I needed them. Whether that was with;
- Contracts coming to an end
- Advice and guidance with things on and off the pitch
- Someone who I could open up to and lean on for support
I always knew that my performances on the pitch would determine whether I had a contract or not, but I wanted my agent to ensure that I got the best deal.
I always had my family for support but sometimes family don’t understand the pressures that come with being involved in the game.
Agents should know the game. They have either played in it, or they have experienced their clients going through the things that you will face on your journey.
Players don’t need babysitting at 18, but when you’re earning good money, there are many temptations and things that are going to be detrimental to your career.
Do you need a football agent?
If you have aspirations and want to get the best out of your career, then having an agent is important. Don’t just sign with the first person that approaches you though!
You have to do your homework on them and make sure that they are going to be right for you. Just because they represent Premier League stars doesn’t mean that they are the right person to sign with.
Don’t be sucked in by their eagerness to represent you, base your decisions on them as a person.
Many will promise the world and be your best friend when things are going well. However, they will also go quiet on you and not make effort when things aren’t going so well. During those tough moments is when agents can really help a player!
Free boots and a box at the latest concert are great, but are they making sure that you’re set up with the best financial plan and checking in on you when you’re out of the team, or going through a long-term injury?
Agents are a big part of your support network so choose wisely!
Agents aren’t solely there for the ride during your career. They are there to work with you to build you as a player and a brand. The good ones will remain a friend long after your career has come to an end. In a dog eat dog industry, where it is hard to trust many people, your agent should be the one person in the game that you can rely on for anything!
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