LA LIGA | REAL MADRID | GARETH BALE
"Gareth Bale will win the Ballon d'Or. He's only 25!"
Bale's representative Jonathan Barnett understands business as an old fashioned art. On the Welshman's transfer to Madrid: "It was one of the greatest, if not the greatest".
You are the owner on Stellar Group. What is Stellar?
- It’s a sports agency, I think perhaps the number one agency in the world. We work in football, athletics, rugby and cricket ... We have six offices worldwide. And take care of hundreds of football players, which is our biggest business, with players acting in twelve countries.
What was your first big transfer?
-Gareth Bale! (laughs). I am unable to remember, we have many. I've been in this 20 years and I am 64. Without wishing to be to arrogant, I could be the person who has made the most transfers in the world. Not all are expensive ... At first concluding a transfer for seven million seemed amazing ... Now there is talk that we could make a record with Bale.
What was it, 101 million?
- It was one of the greatest, if not the largest. And to complete it was a great honor for me because I met Gareth when he was very young and I was able to help make his dream come true ... He always wanted to play for Madrid. He could have gone to United and other clubs, but he wanted Madrid.
Did they offer more money?
- Not much more, but more.
Did Barcelona want him?
- I know that at one time Barcelona were also interested in him, but he said he did not want to go there. There were two agents who called me...
How is it working with Bale?
- We have over a hundred people working with us ... It is the largest agency by far. Our strength is working with young players. Someone told us that there was this guy who was awesome. Then he was 15 years old. He was playing in the youth set-up of Southampton. And he signed with us.
What was the main difficulty in his move to Madrid?
- That Tottenham did not want to sell in the whole process ... So they wanted a ridiculous amount of money.
A few days of hard work ...
- Most of my commission was spent on phone calls and meetings!
Was there a time you thought it might not happen?
- I always believe in my own ability. Maybe the Madrid president had doubts. And the hardest thing was to convince him to continue, not wanting things to get to the last minute as they did with Modric.
How do you work for the players?
- We do absolutely everything for them. We have a team here (in the central London office) 24 hours a day, so if a player has the need to talk to someone at any time, they can call. We organise their marketing, their sponsorships, but also book their holidays, buy their cars, everything. We pay their bills, search for their houses ... They only have to worry about playing football.
Do you receive money monthly for it?
- No. We charge a commission on the transfers. But if they don’t sell it's no problem, they don’t move unless everything is correct. There are many agents that move players when they are not ready. Or they move a lot to take out a short-term benefit.
How do you see the possibility of investment funds in football?
- It's not my business, I have no part in it with any players, none, but I'm in favor of them. Sometimes it could help clubs who could not afford a signing. And I do not think that would override the will of the player.
It is said that Jorge Mendes makes millions...
- He may do.
How much do you charge?
- (Laughs). Enough to have that car parked outside (laughs and points, through the window, a high-end car). Look, Mendes is very good, but I'm number one. Put that (laughs).
How has Bale’s move been?
- When Gareth joined Real I heard experts on television saying he was too young. They never met him or knew him in person. With some difficulty, because he did not have a pre-season, he has shown in his first year that we were right.
Does he have any back problems?
- It's a lie that was published a newspaper. It's 100% untrue.
How is he?
- He’s lovely. I've known since I was young and he is a professional. He is strong on the pitch, and off it too. He knows what he wants, in football, in business, in marketing, in sponsorship. He is a man. But he is not a guy who wants to show off. He has no need to impress people. He only cares about his family.
- 101 million for Bale, 80 for James. Is the market mad?
No. In the US it is the same with basketball. It's what gives football the glamour. People today want to see their stars.
- Is not it contradictory in these times of difficulty?
People go to see the most expensive players, Bale, Cristiano ... They come to see Messi. People buy their tickets to see stars, the glamour. They do not want to see their player get to the stadium on a bike. I do not know what car Cristiano drives but they want to see a Ferrari, for example. And to say "Look! There goes ... Bale. "
- I see it as being elitist...
That's the glamour! Newspapers write about the stars. It increases the image of football. And the most important people in the sport are the players, so they should get a lot. Florentino pays for something for the player. Madrid have Bale, but have won the the tenth European Cup. And Gareth wants to be part of a team. They won the cup and the Champions League. And the money is generated by that ... If you look back now you can say "Bale was a great business."
- Which is the market where Bale sells best?
All over the world! America is not only important. This summer there was a mini tour in Jakarta and 60,000 people came to see him. But the photo of Bale with the Madrid scarf celebrating the European Cup was sent to 360 million people through social networks. His followers are growing by the millions.
- Who has advertising contracts with him?
Right now he has deals with BT, Adidas, EA Sports and Lucozade (energy drink). These are the main ones. He has other smaller contracts but we are changing. We have signed a new six-year deal with Adidas. Messi has his own range but Gareth is going to be the 'face' of Adidas beside him. And we're looking for two or three more. It’s all great.
- Does 50% of the advertising rights go to Madrid?
This is what they tell you (laughs).
- It is normal for Madrid isn’t it?
And what? There is nothing for the agent? I'm joking, but I am a very good negotiator. And we have an agreement of 50 and 50 with Madrid. There were contracts already signed which increased his value when he signed for Madrid and perhaps others from Madrid to increase when Bale scores. Listen, he has a very good contract. He is very happy. And obviously, being in Madrid is very important. It is a really amazing partnership.
- Has Bale reached his peak?
I am sure he is going to be the best player in the world. He will win the Ballon d’Or. He's 25! I told the president and Jose Angel Sanchez and they laughed. They are not laughing so much now. I said that Bale was a better player than Neymar and has more of an impact. In Wales there are far fewer people in Brazil, unfortunately. But in the world I think Gareth is best known and important.