Tevez and Mascherano are not a first. This is why they should be a last.
The door that West Ham has opened, and Liverpool virtually turned revolving, is one any true football aficionado would not hesitate in slamming shut. The door sign reads “Profiteers’ Office”.
Football relations between England and Argentina have a rich history. Highlights are: the sport itself being introduced in the Pampas by British settlers, the laceless ball travelling in the opposite direction, English referees being imported in times of fat cows and paranoia, Rattin in Wembley, Ossie and Ricky, the “Hand of God” followed by the “Goal of the Century”, Beckham and Simeone, Veron and Bassedas, all-seater stadiums. It has been a mixed bag of good, ridiculous, bad and brilliant. The ugly is now lurking in the playertrade routes.
That Argentine football has been in organisational and financial disarray for decades is no news. Despite having a following of world renowned passion, a seemingly inexhaustible quarry of talent and a National Team which tops rankings and bags hefty playing fees, clubs have perennially found it difficult to make ends meet (Boca and Velez are the only current exceptions). Crippling violence, astronomical administrative blunders and ubiquitous corruption and clientelism have devastating effects on balance sheets. Admittedly much of the famine is self-inflicted, but show me a country where the football background differs from the broader social one.
This environment was propitious for profiteers to flourish. “Swirling river, fisherman’s gain”.
Agents mutated. “Meagre” 5-10% transfer commissions for their “hard” work were not enough to placate their Greed. They knew how much European clubs were willing to dish out for a player. They knew how badly Argentine clubs needed cash. Why not offer some financial relief for a bigger percentage of future transfers? Player registration and economical rights were disjoined. Percentages grew steadily whilst the age of players involved fell.
It was only matter of time before Club Directors realised that this was a great way of lining their own pockets on the side. Claiming dire economical circumstances (obviously blamed on predecessors), whole batches of young players are being sold to so called “Investment Groups” for peanuts. Investors are of course always anonymous. The task of stopping the financial rot was now six feet under a heap of notes.
There are now myriad players owned by third parties (well over 50% of all players playing Primera Division). The profiteers loan them (back) to clubs who are merely used as shop windows. Registration contracts lasting more than a year are as rare as 6-all draws, six months being the norm, all of them have clauses in them allowing for termination as soon as a big(ger) fish shows some interest in the player. Control over the player’s future lies completely in outsiders’ hands.
There is one more twist to this spurious scheme. Fifa statutes only regulate registration rights. As economical rights have been severed from registration, and are in hands of actors outside Fifa’s jurisdiction, it’s 5-year contract length limit is not applicable. Players are effectively owned by profiteers until they are bought by a club, whatever time it takes.
Undoubtedly there are some who will claim there is nothing wrong with cunningly playing the market. The same could be said of trading a loaf of bread for heirloom jewelry in a war zone.
“Fair Trade Football”, anyone?
It is public knowledge that West Ham has been fined £5.5 million in relation to the signings of Tevez and Mascherano. The club pleaded guilty of entering in a relationship with third parties that could “materially influence its policies or the performances of its teams", and not acting “in the utmost good faith” towards the Premier League.
Two days later they did it exactly the same all over again.
For Tevez to be able to play again for the club they had to provide proof that the relation with the third party holding the player’s economic rights had been severed. They presented the PL a letter sent to the companies associated to the player, in which the club terminates with immediate effect any former agreement. This is plain nonsense, akin to sending your spouse a letter stating: “Don't love you anymore, please pack your bags, we are no longer married”.
There is absolutely no way Liverpool hasn't got some kind of agreement with the owners of Mascherano’s economical rights.
The PL has regulations in place to stop privateers, but somehow they seem to be getting around them. Could be incompetence, or maybe Kia Joorabchian (front man for the third parties involved in this particular affair) was once again one step ahead.