“Jorge who? Sorry, I’ve never heard of him before.” The tone of the response might have been a joke, but it made the declaration of intent clear. For Jonathan Barnett, the English man who is the most important agency representing the global football market, ICM Stellar Sports is settling in Portugal to be ‘number one’ in the national market. Even if it means toppling Jorge Mendes, the excellent Portuguese agent who has dominated the Portuguese football transfer scene for the past many years.
“If you look at Forbes, you see that the name Jonathan Barnett is the number 1 agent in world football. And I don’t usually look down,” emphasizes the 72-year-old Briton, who is accustomed to high stakes. After his previous casino career (“not as a gaming dealer, I’ve never been in a casino room, I was part of the finance team,” he explains), he founded the Stellar Group in 1994, with his partner David Manasseh, which, meanwhile, In 2020, it was acquired by ICM Partners, the North American giant that represents iconic figures in film and entertainment and whose sports arm is now ICM Stellar Sports.
Barnett, distinguished by Forbes magazine, in 2019, as the world’s most powerful agent, manages stars such as Gareth Bale (Real Madrid), Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid), Jack Grealish (Manchester City) or Sail Nguez (in Madrid). / Chelsea), among a list of up to 800 names. And since Monday, it has also officially opened an office in Portugal, in the city of Porto, a few meters from the Gestifute headquarters, by Jorge Mendes.
“What attracts us in the Portuguese market is the quality of young footballers. Our agency specializes in hiring young players and accompanying them throughout their careers. For a company that is the largest in the world, it is important to have representation in this market. Portugal has training academies that are among the best and produces players who can play anywhere in the world,” he explains.
In fact, Barnett and his agency have been in the national market for at least five years, with a team led by Clemente Araujo, a former immigrant from Barcelona in England, and Artur Fernandez, president of the National Football Agents Association. International Director of Stiller. In their group they already have 44 players, with an average age of 19, including Thiago Gouvia, a youngster who made his first-team debut, Vasco Sousa, of FC Porto B, or Bernardo Vital, of Estoril, all accompanied by a team from Nine professionals, from exploration to psychology, performance, management or communication.
So, to quickly “correct” the tone against “friend” Jorge Mendes, Barnett assumes that the goal in Portugal is to wrest market leadership. “We want to be No. 1 in Portugal, maybe not in two or three years, maybe it takes more time, we have to be realistic, but that’s what we came for. I won’t compete with Jorge and Jorge won” to compete with me. There is enough market for everyone. If we get to the same player, it will be the player’s decision,” he says.
“Darwin for 100 million? I don’t think so”
The official opening of the ICM Stellar Sports Portugal office comes at a time when the Portuguese team is emerging once again, with Benfica recently winning the Youth League and FC Porto national champion with several youngsters making their way to Olival. “Portugal will continue to produce excellent young players,” Barnett says, but he does not risk saying if we are facing a new golden generation for national football: “I will answer that in a few years,” he defends cautiously, warning that “not all Portuguese players, No matter how good they are, they will play for Real Madrid or be the next Cristiano Ronaldo. It happens once in a generation.”
After two years of decline in the transfer market, as a result of the epidemic, Jonathan Barnett believes that next summer “will remain difficult”, but he will already have “clubs buying more”. “There is money available.” The Englishman believes Portuguese clubs will continue to “sell well”, but doubts Benfica will be able to reach the €100m threshold for Darwin Nunez. “They won’t understand it. I don’t think so…” he says, referring to the 60m Haaland move to Manchester City. “Haaland was the best, or the best, in the market. There will always be three or four big deals, but the rest will be below that level. Benfica is a selling club and the problem is that everyone knows Benfica is a sales club, which is why it’s difficult. [chegar a esses valores]. But they are doing well in the market, so who knows…”
“FIFA? See you in court”
Barnett, Mendes and many other major footballers have joined forces with an association, the Football Forum, hitherto led by the late Mino Raiola, to take on FIFA. The Briton promises to fight until the courts, if FIFA wants to impose its plans to regulate the activity, which is considering, among other things, ceilings of 10% on commissions for businessmen on transfers.
“What they offer is illegal. I agree that there must be rules, as in all areas. But the rules must be written by those who know the activity, together with FIFA. If so, 100% in agreement. The rules that imposed by FIFA, No. Why always demonize businessmen? I can show you how many people have already been charged and convicted in FIFA. And I ask: How many businessmen have been convicted? Do they make a lot of money? Yes. But is this illegal? I mentioned has not been “.
Roger Schmidt hired him
IMC Stellar Sports Director of the European Market, German Michael Reschke knows the next Benfica coach well. In fact, Reschke hired Roger Schmidt once, although he did not work with him directly.
“I was the one who signed him to Bayer Leverkusen, in 2014, but in the meantime I left for Bayern Munich even before the season started,” said the former Bavarian club DN coach who was also linked with Renato Sanchez. : “An excellent player, but it was too early.” Coming back to Schmidt, what do you expect from the new Eagle coach? “He is a great signing for Benfica. He has a great idea of football and develops the players a lot. There have been many clubs interested in the Bundesliga, if he chooses Benfica it is because he believes in the project that has been presented to him and I am sure they will be very satisfied with his work.”