Paul Pogba stated that “the time is right to go back to Old Trafford” after completing his £89.3 million switch back to Manchester in August 2016. After four years away from the Red Devils with Serie A giants Juventus, Pogba felt that it was his ‘destiny’ to return the club that had taken the 16-year-old Frenchman away from Paris’ suburbs (Le Havre) and put him centre stage in world football.
However, the circumstances surrounding Jose Mourinho’s world-record acquisition have now been called into question by FIFA which recently confirmed that they would be seeking ‘clarification’ over who exactly was involved in the transfer and how much they received for their efforts.
The man at the centre of the storm is the Monaco based super-agent Mino Raiola, who represents other Premier League stars such as Romelu Lukaku, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The recently published Football Leaks: The Dirty Business of Football suggests the Italian earned approximately £41.4 million from his involvement in the deal.
The platform used by clubs in respect of international transfers is called the FIFA TMS (Transfer Matching System). Clubs are required to upload key transfer documentation and information to the system, before football’s governing body will sanction and accordingly process any international transfer.
Should FIFA find that Manchester United and/or Juventus have failed to comply with the requirements of FIFA TMS and potentially incorrectly stated the fees received by Raiola for Pogba’s change of employer, a maximum sanction of (CHF 14,000) which amounts to less than £11,000 can be imposed on each club.
The FIFA TMS system, when introduced back in 2010, was heralded by the (then) FIFA President Sepp Blatter as “The most important thing in increasing the transparency of individual transactions”. However, if the latest Football Leaks allegations are accurate the extent to which this system has increased the transparency of often 8-figure sums changing hands between clubs must surely be questioned.
Should Raiola be found to have acted for Juventus in a selling capacity, Manchester United in a buying role and Pogba as his intermediary, Raiola may simply have taken to a new level what is currently allowed under the FIFA Regulations on Working with Intermediaries. If the enormity of a £41.4 million being earned by an agent in a single transfer is put to one side for a moment, it can be argued that Raiola placed himself in a make-or-break position concerning the biggest move ever seen in the ‘beautiful game’.
Manchester United were keen to secure arguably European football’s most exciting young players before Real Madrid were able to take him from the Vecchia Signora. Juventus saw the potential to capitalise on their 2012 free signing and Raiola acting as Pogba’s intermediary identified the opportunity to achieve the best for his client in a move to the biggest club on the planet.
Commentary on Triple Representation
The best case scenario on Pogba’s move is that all three parties were unaware of Raiola’s involvement with the other two parties in the transaction and he was accordingly afforded an opportunity to engineer triple representation. However, is it likely that all three parties were aware of the Italian’s involvement in purportedly representing their respective interests at least at some point during the transaction; effectively agreeing to £41.4 million being taken out of football by a third party. If Riaola’s capacity had been limited to just that of the player’s intermediary, then an approximate £30 million would still remain in the Old Trafford or Stadio delle Alpi coffers to potentially be invested in grassroots player development.
If the allegations concerning Riaola are substantiated, FIFA will be likely to revisit their previous consideration of introducing some form of levy/tax on intermediaries fees above a certain transaction value to ensure that the huge sums often dealt with in the modern game are not simply being redirected into the pockets of intermediaries.
Summary of FIFA’s Current Regulations
Whether Raiola has in fact pulled off a triple representation remains to be seen, yet currently under the FIFA Regulations conflicts are allowed if all parties agree to waive them. Again, only time will tell if Juventus, Manchester United and Pogba were all in agreement that Raiola could impartially act in on the their respective behalf.
Nevertheless, so long as the FIFA Regulations continue to authorise such practices we should not be surprised to see intermediaries utilising their respective bargaining positions with clubs to ensure they are considerably rewarded when negotiating transfers for their clients.