For some, the roles of agents have grown increasingly fundamental to football and the value of their importance helps to make the sport the billion pound industry it is across the world today.
For others, agents are unnecessary commodities that suck millions of pounds out of the game each year at the expense of the sport that relies on them to keep the system working efficiently.
In most scenarios, a relationship between an agent and a client starts when a footballer’s career officially begins. The agent becomes an official representative of the player ahead of any parents, coaches, or guardians in all off the field matters.
This means—depending on the player's career—agents sort out their sponsorships, contracts, and public relations, handle any transfers as well as decide how a player invests any excessive amounts of money they may earn amongst an extensive list of responsibilities.
Apply some common logic and it becomes evident that the more successful the player is, the more valuable he becomes as a client to the agent.
So how do agents earn their wage? Agents are entitled to a commission of any kind of earnings, endorsements, or contract negations and depending on an agent’s ability to select a talented and capable player they can represent, their business can become extremely profitable.
This simultaneously is the same reason why they are envied and criticised by many in the football world as they have the capacity to earn millions of pounds after one day’s work, depending on what happens to their player on the pitch.
Transfers of the likes of Robinho, Dimitar Berbatov, Wayne Rooney, and Carlos Tevez saw agents walk away with sizable commissions, but this was an incident barely taken notice of by the media and fans alike.
When overblown and unrealistic transfer fees that don’t give a breakdown of where the money is going fails to raise any suspicions, it is a powerful indicator that something is not right about the way football agents and clubs are conducting their affairs.
Agents tend to be thrust into the spotlight during highly publicized transfer sagas like the Carlos Tevez malarkey, where agent Kia Joorabchian (pictured) was at the forefront of a complicated arm wrestle between West Ham and his agency before he brokered a deal for the Argentinian's transfer to Manchester United.
For further examples of agent’s potential to earn big take the world’s most infamous football agent Pini Zahavi, who was the business brain behind the transfers of Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, now of Everton, and Juan Sebastian Veron—deals that amassed a total fee of £65.5m.
If you were taking a considerable commission from that figure, it would be fair to assume you conducted an extraordinarily comfortable lifestyle. But at whose expense, and for what?
For exaggerating the value of players and inflating a transfer market that oppresses the financial capabilities of small clubs? The issue is that people will continue to be sceptical of these agents until their roles and their every action is clearly showcased to the watching public.
But it is important to understand that a large part of football, and any other sport for that matter, would be chaos without them.
Underhand agents have been known for offering sums of money to managers, but this is an action not tolerated by the managers or the Football Association in England.
It would be foolish to assume that football agents everywhere are clean, though, and therefore questions must be raised about other smaller leagues around the world that do not have a media microscope over every transfer dealing that takes place.
But without agents, football would be a mess of dodgy dealings and underhand tactics where fraud would be common place. Agents act and perform their duties under the watchful eye of FIFA and all other corresponding authorities. Without the strict infrastructure they apply, players would be extremely vulnerable and so would the market they operate in.
The power of football agents comes from their ability to understand their market and act accordingly. They aid the top players around the globe in earning the top figures they command and ensuring that their focus is firmly kept on playing football and not worrying about endorsement deals or the mechanics of a club contract.
They may have their critics but on a daily basis, these faceless agents perform complex and crucial operations that keep the game on the surface running smoothly. This is the nature of the extraordinary importance held by football agents.