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Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Joo's A Crowd

"Get Wayne Bridge on if you're desperate you fuckers."

“A man is known by the company he keeps,” goes the old adage. No less true in these cynical times is the fact that behind every greedy footballer is a greedy agent. When Sir Alex Ferguson launched into a diatribe about the shady middle men cluttering up the game at the turn of the year, the context was that a few months previous, his club’s most prized asset Wayne Rooney had come within a transplanted hair’s breadth of leaving for their city rivals. As well as Rooney, the player’s agent Paul Stretford came in for criticism from Sir Alex. Diplomatically calling Stretford’s influence ‘bad advice’, one winces when imagining what the Scot said about him behind closed doors.

Another agent who is no stranger to encountering the vitriol of his clients’ employers is the Iran-born Brit Kia Joorabchian. Joorabchian sprang to the attention of the English media back in August 2006 when it emerged that among the players whose economic rights he owned (under the auspices of some four separate companies) were the newly-signed West Ham duo Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano. The Iranian’s punt has paid off, umpteenfold. Mascherano went to Liverpool just five months after arriving at Upton Park in a deal eventually worth £18.6m. But it was Tevez who was the goose that laid the golden egg. Heroics in his first Premier League season meant that the Argentine’s stock rose dramatically. How Joorabchian must have rubbed his hands together with unadulterated glee as first United, then City contrived to make Tevez one of Manchester’s richest residents.

Ordered to stay away from Eastlands for two weeks following his outrageous petulance in Munich and with Manchester City’s HR and legal teams currently weighing up his future in the north west, Tevez is unlikely to be spending his fortnight off basking in the sunshine of this Indian Summer. But one issue stands out like a beacon in this Tevez saga. El Apache spent two years at Manchester United. Now, I can only speak for myself here but I’m pretty sure that if I hated a city, and for all intents and purposes it seems Tevez hates Manchester, then I would not go and sign a five-year contract for a different company in the same city. And I only earn slightly less than Tevez. Money, then, informed the move.

And who saw that money? Kia Joorabchian (as Tevez’s representative/owner). We are talking serious money too. A report from the Times suggested that the transfer fee involved an initial £15m payment, followed by two additional sums of £16m. This money was ostensibly paid into two offshore companies, but though the details were disclosed to the FA and Premier League, Joorabchian has never identified the beneficiaries directly.

It’s a handsome business. The investors, whoever they might be, bought Tevez’s economic rights from Boca Juniors for £14m in 2004 before effectively leasing him to Corinthians (a side Joorabchian’s consortium owned), West Ham (a club they bid for) and then Manchester United. Investors in the consortium in possession of Tevez’s rights have made a collective profit of at least £50m from the various fees received. Joorabchian, while he may not be directly involved with Tevez’s economic rights following City buying the player outright, continues to represent him and retains an interest to the tune of £3.5m should City win the Champions League.

To further muddy the waters, one of the clubs to allegedly table a £35m bid for Tevez in the summer were Corinthians, the side Joorabchian himself had intimate links with, dictating transfer policy through his role as president at Media Sports Investment – the consortium in charge. In essence, a transfer to Corinthians for Tevez would have represented an absolute masterclass in opportunism from his representative. From Corinthians to Corinthians (via London and Manchester) within the space of five years and tens of millions of pounds-worth of profit in the process. That Joorabchian managed to sell Tevez’s economic rights for as much as £47m, when United had previously been touted £25.5m is perhaps more a testament to Manchester City’s bulging pockets than his business acumen, but latching onto the least parsimonious club in world football was a coup nonetheless.

But a coup at what cost? With the threat of contract termination currently hanging over Tevez, Joorabchian may finally be feeling the heat for treating his client as a glorified beast of burden, albeit a beast of burden who is rich as Croesus. It doesn’t take too much imagination to reach the conclusion that the switch from the red half to the blue half of Manchester suited others far more than it suited the player in question. And I’m not just talking about Joorabchian. Remember the ‘Welcome to Manchester’ publicity stunt anyone?

Descriptions of Tevez’s personality, attitude and behaviour have been bandied about readily in the last few weeks, a ‘poison dwarf’ the most hand-wringingly righteous so far. Admittedly, City is the only club from which he has agitated for a move, which suggests that with something approaching relative autonomy (MSI’s third party agreement with West Ham gave them, and not the club, the say-so over Tevez’s transfer, while at United, the club decided he wasn’t worth the fee), he is disruptive. Family reasons may well be valid issues. His ‘representative’ could certainly be another.

Now that City own Tevez outright, Joorabchian only has his agent fees to fall back on and he isn’t going to make those with a client happily leading the line for a top-four Premier League side until the end of his five-year contract. No sir. It doesn’t take much to set a player off (see Paul Scholes’s recent comments) – the slightest hint of a lack of respect towards players told they are the bees’ knees 99% of the time can become, ludicrously, the most insurmountable of obstacles. You can bet your life Joorabchian 'can’t believe' his client has been treated this way and the phrase 'lack of respect' will appear a fair few times before he and Tevez finally blow out of town; presumably carrying bags marked 'Swag', owned by a consortium linked to Joorabchian.

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