Football players and managers have always attracted headlines, but some of the sport’s biggest super agents are now becoming just as famous as those standout names they represent.
Over recent decades, and particularly since the landmark Bosman ruling in 1995, football agents have reached a level of fame which would have shocked player representatives from previous eras.
Wayne Rooney’s agent Paul Stretford, Pini Zahavi and Kia Joorabchian were some of the early trailblazers in the profession before the late Mino Raiola took things to a whole new level due to his prominence in the media.
Jorge Mendes and Rafaela Pimenta are among the biggest global power brokers in football these days, representing stars ranging from all-time great Cristiano Ronaldo to younger sensations like Erling Haaland.
Who are the football super agents in 2022?
Most official definitions of a super agent refer to representatives of sports players or actors who are “extremely successful and prominent”, as well as being “an expert in their field who is highly effective in achieving their clients’ objectives”.
Prominent media and public profiles are also important for a player representative who wishes to earn the super agent tag.
The modern super agents are intermediaries who look after the affairs of the biggest players in football, working to ensure they have the best chance of on-field success while growing their clients’ money-making ability off the pitch, something that lines their own pockets in the process.
For the purposes of this list of prominent football agents, FootballTransfers has listed only the biggest names, those who you are likely to see do the media rounds on an almost daily basis while the transfer window is open or during a significant story involving one of their star footballers.
Date of Birth/Age: 7 January 1966 (56 years old)
Birthplace: Lisbon, Portugal
Company Name: GestiFute
Notable clients: Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Felix, Bernardo Silva, Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo, Darwin Nunez, Ederson, Marco Asensio.
Mendes is best known for his work masterminding the incredible career of Cristiano Ronaldo, who has broken records on and off the pitch.
However, the man behind the GestiFute football agency has built a huge empire which will ensure he remains a hugely prominent football figure even when the Portugal great hangs up his boots.
There are a number of other big-name Portuguese players in his ranks including Man City stars Bernardo Silva, Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo and Ederson.
Joao Felix is another top Portuguese client, with the forward’s massive move to Atletico Madrid in 2019 remaining one of the world’s biggest transfers at €126 million.
Darwin Nunez, who moved to Liverpool from Benfica, is among a host of South American players who are on the Mendes books, while manager Jose Mourinho has also worked closely with him over the years.
Company Name: One
Notable clients: Erling Haaland, Paul Pogba, Matthijs De Ligt, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Marco Verratti, Xavi Simons, Ryan Gravenberch, Denzel Dumfries.
Rafaela Pimenta has emerged as one of football’s super agents following the death of Raiola in April 2022.
Raiola’s huge personality and massive media presence had helped him to build a massive stable of top players.
And Pimenta has inherited the agency run by the charismatic Italian, who passed away because of illness aged 54.
Pimenta was once described as “the most important person in football that nobody knows” by an unnamed Premier League director – and even now there is only limited public knowledge about the Brazilian’s life and background outside of football.
But you cannot doubt the importance of Pimenta, who is a qualified lawyer, in the modern game.
Pimenta’s biggest client is Haaland, while representing Paul Pogba has been a huge deal for the company during his high-earning spells with Juventus and Manchester United, with Raiola once having a famous feud with Sir Alex Ferguson.
Xavi Simons is a future star also on the books of Pimenta and he may be one of the next players in the group to be part of a huge transfer.
Date of Birth/Age: 9 July 1973 (49 years old)
Birthplace: Rovereto, Italy
Company Name: P&P Sport Management
Notable clients: Romelu Lukaku, Arthur, Stefan de Vrij, Malang Sarr.
Federico Pastorello is another of the top super agents in the game.
The Italian has represented Romelu Lukaku this year amid his controversial departure from Chelsea and return to Inter.
Lukaku was formerly represented by Raiola and despite his on-pitch struggles this season has been a lucrative player for agents to represent over the past decade, with multiple high-value transfers and a spell playing for Manchester United.
Inter defender Stefan de Vrij, who has recently been subject of transfer speculation with his contract at San Siro expiring, is also among his high-profile clients.
Date of Birth/Age: 28 January 1950 (72 years old)
Company Name: Stellar
Notable clients: Gareth Bale, Jack Grealish, Eduardo Camavinga, Kalvin Phillips, Ben Chilwell, Ibrahima Konate, Yéremy Pino, Kieran Tierney, Luke Shaw.
Barnett, the co-founder of the ICM Stellar Sports Group, has developed a big reputation due to his long-standing relationship representing Gareth Bale.
He has managed a lucrative career for Bale which saw him swap Tottenham for Real Madrid in a huge transfer and go on to win five Champions League crowns.
Barnett was regularly in the media making Bale’s case as his Madrid career came to a rather unsavoury end, resulting in a brief return to Spurs and a later move to play in MLS.
With Bale nearing the end of his career, Barnett now has a new star client in Manchester City midfielder Jack Grealish.
He helped to negotiate a British transfer record £100m deal that took Grealish away from boyhood club Aston Villa.
Real Madrid midfielder Eduardo Camavinga and England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford are also part of a varied stable of players, with representation across all of the major leagues.
Barnett has worked on contracts with an astonishing $1.4 billion.
Outside of football, Barnett has had involvement in the careers of many other sportsmen including cricket great Brian Lara and former world heavyweight champion boxer Lennox Lewis.
Date of Birth/Age: 10 March 1966 (56 years old)
Birthplace: Cologne, Germany
Company Name: Sports360 GmbH
Notable clients: Toni Kroos, Julian Weigl, Mario Gotze, Timo Werner, Niklas Sule.
Volker Struth has long dominated the transfer market in Germany and it is players from that country who dominate his roster of players.
While his influence outside of Germany is not as strong, the Sports360 supremo has Real Madrid great Toni Kroos as an impressive star client.
World Cup winner Mario Gotze is also represented by the company, while Timo Werner has been a lucrative client over recent seasons, having made a big-money switch to Chelsea before returning to RB Leipzig.
By the end of 2020, Forbes credited Struth with negotiating contracts worth $418.1 million and had described him as the most prominent agent in Germany.
Football Agents FAQ
How do you become a football agent?
In most cases, there are limited qualifications needed to become a football agent, nor are there many formal requirements to be registered.
For agents based in England, as an example, they simply need to be registered with the Football Association – which can be done through paying a fee, passing a test of good character (which involves criminal record checks) and being over the age of 18.
A strong knowledge of football, and its inner workings, is essential for a successful agent.
Skills in the commercial, business and financial worlds would also be beneficial to best serve the players and managers they represent.
Legal expertise is seen as a desirable skill – due to the complex nature of some commercial agreements a knowledge of contract law can be extremely useful, though it may be possible for agents to outsource certain elements if they do not have those qualifications.
As with other professions, networking is arguably the most important factor – the links an agent is able to cultivate with players, clubs, executives, scouts, brands, marketing departments and the media provide a huge determining factor of success.
Many agents have business management qualifications as a starting point and then work as supporting employees with other notable agents and agencies before opting to branch out on their own if they desire.
Do footballers actually need agents?
There are views on both sides of the debate over whether football players really need agents.
The vast majority of players still employ an agent to represent them.
There are multiple advantages to doing that, such as the belief an agent will negotiate and work hard to ensure his client has a lucrative and successful football career.
As an example, if a player wants to move to a bigger club without alienating his current team’s fanbase, it is often the agent who will do the dirty work – briefing the media both discreetly and in public comments, sounding out interest from other clubs, negotiating with the current club and talking up his client’s prospects within the game.
An agent is incentivised to negotiate the most rewarding financial settlements with clubs on behalf of their player, either when transfers are occurring or when contract negotiations are being thrashed out.
The best agents will also provide impartial advice, with the advantage in many cases being they are not as emotionally involved as family members may be in managing their relative’s career.
Further down the football ladder, having a good agent can be crucial to simply keeping your career going.
If you are an older player dropping down the leagues or an emerging talent looking for a spot in a top academy, having a good agent with existing relationships at clubs could make all the difference in whether they find a team to play for and continue their career or have to call time on their playing dreams.
The downside, of course, regardless of the level of player and agent, is that these services come at a cost.
Players will have to give up a percentage of their earnings, which in the modern game can be vast sums, in order to fund their agent’s activities, with most of the modern agencies which are headed up by the super agents often employing hundreds of staff in huge operations.
Some players have their parents as agents, with Juventus and France midfielder Adrien Rabiot being a high-profile example – his mother Veronique having represented him throughout his career and developing quite a reputation in the media.
Across other sports such as American Football, a trend is emerging where some NFL players have begun negotiating contracts without the services of an agent, particularly rookie contracts which come with a pre-defined pay scale. This practice is slowly starting to spread around the soccer world too.
While still rare, Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and Joshua Kimmich are among recent examples of players who have negotiated contracts themselves.
In most cases, even when a player’s football matters are handled by a family member or close personal advisor, there is still a manager or representative required to manage commercial affairs and partnerships, particularly when a player is still establishing himself in the game.
This is due to the enhanced commercial contacts and industry experience which agents are likely to have in comparison to a family member without those existing links with brands, money men and powerbrokers.
In the future, you may see more players or their families handling the football side of their careers such as which club to join and whether to make a transfer, while a commercial agent or business partner handles their career and brand management – which includes social media and various other endeavours off the pitch.
For now, though, super agents remain prominent and dominant in the industry. They remain determined to snap up the best talent at an early age and build those relationships before the players rise to global prominence.
How do football agents make their money?
There are multiple ways agents can make money from the football players they represent.
Some super agents will charge a recurring fee on all the money earned by their client – for example a percentage cut of their annual earnings in terms of wages and commercial endorsements.
They will often also get a specific agents fee when a new contract extension is negotiated or as part of a transfer that takes place.
Agent fees are often an addition to the widely quoted transfer fee for a player.
The payment will be made directly from the club to the agent without any middle man involved, and is seen as a necessity to secure the signature of the desired player, even if teams may not like paying it.
Such fees can be particularly lucrative when a player is a free agent or has a release clause in their contract. In examples like this the footballer and his representative hold all the cards, rather than when a club is selling a player who is under contract and the team who owns him has the power to reject offers or at least exert an influence over his eventual destination.
Raiola attracted attention for the huge agent fees he was starting to pull in as his career peaked.
After his death, it was reported he had negotiated almost $850 million in player contract commissions, and was charging fees of close to 10 per cent for contracts or transfers he had negotiated.
When Haaland moved from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester City, it was reported that Raiola and others connected with the deal netted an astonishing €70 million in fees from the move.
Agents can also charge one-off fees for negotiating tie-ups with brands, or for connecting players with other off-field opportunities in the business world.
The brand tie-ups in particular can sometimes prove even more lucrative than the football contracts which are negotiated.