Agent of the year Federico Pastorello on Covid, commission caps and the transfer window

Founder and CEO of P&P Sport Management talks to 'The National' about how the pandemic has affected his business

Federico Pastorello wins Best Agent of the Year at the Globe Soccer Awards. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Federico Pastorello was named best agent at the 2021 Dubai Globe Soccer Awards, beating to the prize the likes of Jorge Mendes, Mino Raiola and Jonathan Barnett.

In August, Pastorello sealed one of the year’s most lucrative transfers by moving client Romelu Lukaku from Inter Milan to Chelsea for a club-record £97.5 million ($129m).

The National spoke with the founder and CEO of P & Sport Management, a boutique agency established in 1996, on how the pandemic has affected the business, player vaccinations and the January transfer window, and capping the commission agents receive from transfers.

Understandably, a lot has been made recently about whether footballers have a duty to take the Covid-19 vaccine. Would you advise your clients to get the jab?

It’s a very delicate topic. Regarding my players, we don’t really recommend because it is something that we need to respect. Because there are people that they don’t ask, they don’t want, and they need to be respected. But personally, I am pro-vaccine, not only for our job, but also for society. Because if there would be another lockdown it would really be a huge problem, not only for football, but for many other areas of our planet.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said this month that he would be wary of signing unvaccinated players in future, given the implications that could have on the rest of the squad. Other managers, including Ralf Rangnick at Manchester United, agree. Do you imagine that will be a major issue going into the winter transfer window?

I’m not updated regarding the numbers of non-vaccinated players, but I think you can count on the fingers on one hand — maybe there would be two/three players per squad, no more — who are not vaccinated.

And honestly, I agree with Klopp that this can be a possible matter to decide: if two players are on the same level of skills, transfer fee and salary, and one has been vaccinated and one doesn’t want to do it, maybe I understand that this can be a problem. But, from my information, many players that now have Covid are all vaccinated. So unfortunately, it looks like the vaccine is not 100 per cent protecting us.

The Premier League decided last week to go ahead with this packed Christmas schedule despite matches being called off because of Covid cases rising inside clubs. Are players concerned by the current situation, and having to play amid these outbreaks?

For sure, many games have been postponed for the clubs where it wasn’t even possible to find the players. This is a big concern. But I’m 100 per cent sure that the English authorities and Premier League are for many years an example as to how to manage the business of football. They’ll know if it’s necessary or not to suspend the championship.

The only problem is that there are so many games to play in the end, there are all these competitions, and there is the World Cup at the end of 2022 that will squeeze a lot the summer period. So, this will be very complicated to fix all the games. But there is a social issue, this is absolutely very important to respect. Because at the end of the day, nobody wants Covid by choice. Saying that, all the measures possible are taken. And all the players have a private life, so the problem arrived from outside, unfortunately, not really inside the training ground.

Given the situation with the pandemic, how do you envisage the January transfer window to be. How will that impact what happens next month?

I think it depends a lot on the countries. I don’t see any way that there’s a big, big spending anywhere. Normally we’re used to seeing the clubs of the Premier League as the big movers. I think there will be some clubs, like West Ham [United] for example are finding themselves in a very interesting situation, so maybe with a small effort they can improve their chances of being top four. Or Leicester that’s facing a little bit of a weak season, so maybe they will try to make something, also Everton.

But for the big, big one, I don’t expect huge things, because they have amazing squads anyway. Maybe some loans, but I don’t see anything so special. In Italy as well, there will be something, but not really big. The top clubs have still four or five players more than they should, so I think they will be more concentrated on trying to move out those players.

You obviously sealed one of the biggest transfers of 2021, in Lukaku to Chelsea. But how has the pandemic affected the transfer business and how you advise the players you look after?

Let’s say — apart from Romelu, that was for sure an exceptional case — I was trying to educate our clients to make them more sensitive about the difficulties there are today. So the fact that we can now be much happier to have a good contract even if the things are not going so well in terms of the amount of playing time. Today it’s important to have a good contract and a good club. And then after, if we don’t play one game it’s not a catastrophe like before.

For sure, we must be a little bit more creative in terms of swapping players, or to try to give the opportunity to sell first a player to buy. So, giving our best to find the right solution and maybe to be a little bit moderated to understand that this particular time is very complicated.

There have been considerable calls recently for fees paid to agents from transfers to be capped, with Fifa this month releasing a report saying those fees this year totalled more than $500 million. Fifa wants to impose a 10 per cent cap from next year. Do you think there should be a limit on commission?

Honestly, I’m saying also publicly that it’s true that our commissions have probably risen to amounts that are really important, maybe even too much for the work, for the responsibility that we have. We are not the football players; we are not the clubs. We are for sure a very important mechanism in this business, but I think there should be a limit on that. But I’m not saying that to be like Peter Pan. It’s just because I really think that if we’re keeping this situation for a long time, probably the system will be less healthy and then, at the end of the day, everybody will have to pay a big bill. I think it’s better to find a good way to manage the worldwide business in football.

And also to give more protection for us. It’s very easy to say we receive $6m in commissions, but if you go deeper to see how much of this money has been really paid you will see that it’s less than 25 per cent. Because there are clubs in big trouble financially and because we don’t have the same guarantee of the clubs and of the football players, this became a little bit more a problem. We are not the most important part, for sure. But a good agent can make a big difference for the career of the player. And consequently also for the club. Because, if the player is well managed, the club also for sure have to earn something because the player would be more stable and more concentrated on his career. So it’s a domino effect.

Personally, we've invested a lot in our structure to try to deliver to our player the best career as possible. Saying that, I think we can establish a more correct limit in terms of commission.

Given the recent move to implement a cap, and the stern opposition from some leading agents, do you think a limit will eventually be imposed?

Listen, I see the story repeating many times and then in the end nothing happens. Maybe now because of this pandemic they will use this as an excuse to do something important. Let’s see. What we would like to do is have the possibility to talk with institutions, because the problem is that until now, they were making our rules without asking us how it works. Ask then have a proper and balanced solution.

So we’re not against putting a limit, but we would like to then also have some protection to be paid on time. This is less of a problem for the big agents, but is a huge problem for the agents that have just two or three players, or maybe the young agents that are starting now, where every little invoice must be paid otherwise they cannot invest in their business. We are talking with the institutions, particularly Uefa.

With Fifa it is really complicated; unfortunately, they are not really thinking too much about the system. But Uefa are much more open-minded, younger, and more open to discuss this topic. So maybe this time there will be some good news — also for us.

Federico Pastorello's client Romelu Lukaku signed for Chelsea from Inter Milan in August for a club-record fee of £97.5m. AFP
Updated: December 30th 2021, 3:54 AM