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Napoli owner says agents are a 'cancer' for clubs

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Napoli club Chairman Aurelio De Laurentiis gestures during a news conference in Naples August 31, 2012. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca/Files
Napoli club Chairman Aurelio De Laurentiis gestures during a news conference in Naples August 31, 2012. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca/Files

By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis spoke out against the 'cancer' of soccer agents on Wednesday and questioned why clubs should have to pay them in transfer deals for players.

The flamboyant Italian told the Leaders Sports Business conference at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge ground that he also only signed players if he had complete control of their image rights and some deals had fallen through as a result.

"You know, that's a cancer of our domain," the movie producer said of agents, in a discussion with West Ham United's vice chairman Karren Brady. "Not every agent. But I don't understand why you need an agent.

"In Hollywood, the actor pays (the agent) himself. I don't pay the agent. In soccer, why must I pay? The agents became like a tax and sometimes they want to be paid up front. You make a contract for five years and they want to be paid in two and three years.

"Why? Because when they finally receive all the money, they go shopping around and making your players crazy because they will say 'I'm negotiating with West Ham, they will pay you two million more'. And so these poor guys start to play not in the appropriate way."

Napoli sold Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain, whose agent is his brother Nicolas, to Juventus for 90 million euros last July.

English Premier League clubs spent almost 130 million pounds ($195.65 million) on agents fees between October 2014 and September 2015, an increase of 15 million pounds from the previous period, according to the league.

The figures included payments made by clubs on behalf of players.

The role of agents, who negotiate with clubs and take a percentage of transfer deals, has been in the headlines after a newspaper sting operation that led to Sam Allardyce losing his job as England manager.

The Daily Telegraph also filmed soccer agents boasting about how many managers they had paid off in transfer deals.

De Laurentiis, who rescued Napoli from bankruptcy in 2004 and brought them back to Serie A from the third tier, said he would like to own clubs in China, the United States and England as well as Italy.

"In England, I would like to start from the bottom and to try to come up little by little," he said.

In the United States, he said his interest would be probably for a club on the East Coast.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)


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