Football agents missed out on £28m payday

By Martin Samuel, January 22, 2009
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Of all the crazy numbers flying around the collapsed Kaka transfer this week, the one that attracted most contempt was £28 million: the fee intended for the middlemen. Obscene appears to be the standard adjective for use in these matters and it got the sort of airing usually reserved for vice squad reports, as commentators waded into the business practices of Manchester City.

Yet observing the fall-out after Kaka elected to stay at AC Milan, it would appear fixing fees in the tens of millions would have counted as money well spent. It was going to take all of that to make a fool such as Garry Cook, chief executive of Manchester City, appear credible.
If Cook is now Sheikh Mansour’s representative in football matters, his highness had better prepare for some Oliver Hardy-esque slaps in the face. Indeed, Cook might as well travel Europe to the old dum-de-dum, dum-de-dum theme tune after the way he has behaved this week.

There was a strategy by which Manchester City could have exited the scene with dignity in Milan and it was to thank Kaka and his club for their time, express disappointment that he would not be joining, before adding that the club would continue moving forward, and this was just a temporary set-back.

Cook didn’t. He said AC Milan bottled it, complained about the refreshments served during their meeting and complained that, to Kaka’s advisors, the whole deal was about money; as if it could ever be about anything else when a great player was so obviously taking a huge
gamble with his career.

This is why £28 million of wheel-oiling wedge was being taken out of a £100 million transfer. Nobody in their right mind thought the deal would be done when they first heard the news, and the fact that it had even become a possibility was regarded as extraordinary.

There are some ludicrous payments made in football, millions handed over to unite a player who wants to join a club with a club that wants him to join, but this was
different.

This was an example of a time when guys such as Kia Joorabchian and Pini Zahavi are useful, and certainly a few million given to them would have been more rewarding expenditure than the air fare that took Cook to Milan, even if he flew Easyjet.

Manchester City had a credibility issue before this began, and a greater one now. To belittle Milan, as Cook did, and to then depict Kaka as being money-fixated when he rejected what was believed to be a significantly more lucrative financial offer is madness. The next major player City approach may think twice before even entering the room if this is the way they react to rejection. Cook clearly believes that by blaming Milan and Kaka he is saving his own skin.

If his owners have any thought for their reputation — and very rich people usually have, particularly as the purchase of Manchester City was a publicity exercise for Abu Dhabi in the first place — Cook might instead be signing his death warrant.

Martin Samuel is the chief sports writer of the Daily Mail, where his column appears on Monday and Wednesday.

    Last updated: 10:23am, January 23 2009