Kevin de Bruyne has his own very good reasons for embarking on personal negotiations without the usual entourage of agents.
De Bruyne and his father Herwig lost faith in the process following a dispute with those representing him in the £58million transfer from Wolfsburg to Manchester City in 2015.
Patrick de Koster, his agent at the time, was arrested in Belgium last year by authorities looking into complaints about the split from the deal and other disputed contractual details.
Kevin De Bruyne’s £83m deal makes him the league’s top earner and was done without agents
Erling Haaland could well be joining De Bruyne at City but a
The criminal investigation is ongoing and, in the meantime, the De Bruynes have discovered they are perfectly capable of looking after their own interests.
They hired data experts to compile relevant analysis to prove the 29-year-old midfielder’s enduring value to City and to satisfy themselves that he was at the best club to pursue his ambition of winning the Champions League and did not need to seek a transfer.
They also hired Belgian lawyers to examine the details of a contract worth £83million over the next four years in Manchester, making him the best-paid player in the Premier League.
But there was not been a penny paid in commission.
De Bruyne has been stung in the past, after his previous agent Patrick De Koster was arrested
De Bruyne went about his negotiations as any normal employee might go about securing an elevation onto a better pay grade. Eden Hazard approached his final contract at Chelsea in similar style.
Perhaps it is to do with the Belgian footballers as independent thinkers, with the confidence to appreciate their worth. You should not require a world-class salesman to convince a wealthy Premier League club to lavish riches upon the best player in the country.
Yet De Bruyne’s business at City is in sharp contrast in an industry where the wheels are greased by the middle-men, taking a 10 per cent cut for ‘making things happen’.
Even with the world locked in a pandemic, the Premier League clubs shelled out more than £272million in fees to agents over the course of 12 months to February this year, a grotesque figure given the state of the world.
So perhaps it was more than a coincidence that City confirmed the De Bruyne contract in the afterglow of their first-leg victory in the Champions League quarter-final against a Borussia Dortmund team featuring Erling Haaland.
City are among the suitors for 20-year-old Haaland, the hottest property in world football and currently being hawked around Europe’s richest clubs in unseemly fashion by his agent, Mino Raiola.
Mino Raiola is the super-agent driving the Haaland circus and driving up the bidding war
Haaland’s father Alfie is said to be in line for multi-million pound commission fees in a deal
Only a select band of elite clubs can afford to step into this market. Bids are expected to start at £120m for a fee with Dortmund, plus an eight-figure salary and multi-million pound commission fees for the agent and the player’s family.
Raiola’s reputation precedes him after big-money moves featuring clients such as Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He made more than £40m from Pogba’s return from Juventus to Manchester United according to the book Football Leaks: The Dirty Business of Football.
Sir Alex Ferguson made his distrust clear and the Dutch-Italian agent appears to have devoted a great deal of time and energy since the transfer in 2016 preparing the ground for the next move.
At 28, Pogba may have one more major contract to sign, at Old Trafford or elsewhere.
Raiola defended his methods recently. ‘My job is to get the best deal done for my player,’ he told the BBC, earlier this year. ‘No more than that. And doing that is to provide him with a whole range of services that people don’t even know.
Raiola made more than £40m from Pogba’s return from Juventus to Manchester United
‘My players don’t call me a parasite, and that’s who I work for. I only care what my players call me.’
Raiola is not alone. Sweeteners for agents and family are commonplace when contracts are signed. They might be purely financial or the shape of perks such as an executive box.
The billions from broadcasting deals combined with FIFA’s decision to deregulate the business has made English football a fertile ground but Raiola’s deals catch the eye because his clients are of such high profile.
Ultimately, clubs have a choice. They don’t have to pay a commission but then they will have to make do without the player. No shortage of proposed transfers have collapsed in recent years because of the alleged demands regarding the size of the fee for agents.
Guardiola distanced himself from the Haaland roadshow but it is no secret City are interested
Pep Guardiola has tried to distance Manchester City from the Haaland circus with claims he is not in the market for another striker despite Sergio Aguero’s departure at the end of the season.
Perhaps it was because of the impending Champions League tie with Dortmund. Or part of the game you have to play when you engage with Raiola.
After the De Bruyne deal at least City know there is another way.