Agent Free for All
With the English season now to all intents and purposes at an end, headline writers must look elsewhere for stories and luckily, thanks to the tireless efforts of that insidious beast the football agent, a juicy expose is never far away.
It’s the time of the year when the agent can take center stage and really earn his 10 or 15% by keeping their clients’ in the news.
They can be actively angling for a move away, usually because a player has gone as “far as he can” at his present club or it could be something more machiavellian like linking him with several clubs but in reality just seeking a revised contract at his present club.
As is always the case, all eyes are on Arsenal. The club have been a public relations disaster in recent years and their prolonged trophy drought has seen mumblings of discontent among the faithful.
It doesn’t help that every year it seems that one player or another is being linked with a move away. For former captain Patrick Vieira this was like Wimbledon or the FA Cup Final: It was an annual event and while the club bluffed and blustered about how they were sure he would stay the player himself would keep quiet or just reply to questions by saying how much he loved the club.
After Vieria it was Thierry Henry and then Cesc Fabregas.
Last year was the denouement with both Fabregas and Samir Nasri effectively holding the club over a barrel, both knowing full well that they would get what they wanted anyway. No manager after all wants to keep an unhappy player.
Arsenal fans are bracing themselves for a similar summer of speculation as both Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott enter the final 12 months of their contracts.
Van Persie of course is hot property after netting 30 Premier League goals in what was effectively his first full season at the club; other seasons have been marred by injury. His form earned him numerous personal awards plus the interest of the usual suspects who hover whenever they think a player’s head maybe turned by large dollops of cash.
But while it is Arsenal who will invariably be making the news, in truth it is their local rivals Tottenham Hotspur, the team they beat to third place, who will be facing the break with greater apprehension.
After acquitting themselves in their opening Champions League campaign, they missed out last season and must now hope Chelsea lose the Champions League Final against Bayern Munich so they can go through the qualifying round to get in to Europe’s premier club competition proper.
The result in Munich could well decide the fate of many of Tottenham’s big names. Last year Croatian midfielder Luka Modric was strongly linked with a move to Chelsea but with owner and manager standing firm, Tottenham dug their heels in and he stayed.
Whether he will be swayed in a like manner a second time remains to be seen.
Along with Modric, Tottenham can expect plenty of interest in winger Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart. While Harry Redknapp is widely recognized as a smart operator in the transfer market he knows that replacing that trinity won’t be easy; they would have to start bidding for players against clubs like Manchester City and Barcelona.
Manchester City can also expect to come under some scrutiny. Before the title had been secured there was talk of a clear out but the feeling was that several players there, the likes of Joe hart, Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure, were indispensible.
That notion has been blown out of the water less that 72 hours after that sensational, last gasp win over Queens Park Rangers with Toure’s agent reportedly going on a radio station in Barcelona saying that his client has achieved all he can at City and that while Barcelona have not made an approach, he inferred one would be more than welcome.
Forget Wayne Rooney or Didier Drogba, the toughest opponent any football manager faces is the dreaded agent.