So boring is the Tevez to Corinthians transfer deal story that already The Guardian’s replaced it with an article on David Beckham’s inane comments on whether Manchester City will ever surpass Manchester United (answer: they won’t because of United’s “history,” which apparently David thinks today’s football clubs are no longer capable of making).
But behind this story is a name you tend to skip over a lot in various transfer stories and don’t much think about: player “agent” Kia Joorabchian. Except the Iranian-born, Canadian and British passport holding wheeler and dealer isn’t an “agent” at all (on his Wikipedia entry, his occupation is listed as “businessman”). He’s not licensed as one anyway, which means, at least in theory—as with all rules and regulations when it comes to the Premier League—he shouldn’t be allowed to operate in England.
Nevertheless, Joorabchian does work as a “consultant,” “advisor”, “mover-and-shaker.” He is Mr. Third Party, and via a neat financial trick, once owned or owns the “economic rights” of many South American and European players on behalf of a shadowy group of investors (estimates of the numbers of players under his purview at last glance in 2009 were in the 60-70 range).
Joorabchian has been linked to Tevez ever since the Argentine forward first made the move from Boca Juniors to Brazil’s Corinthians back in 2004. Back then, Joorabchian was the front man for a group of shadowy investors in a company called Media Sports Investments. MSI bought Corinthians that same year, and as part of their new era together, MSI brought in Tevez from Boca for $22 million.
MSI however broke new and nauseating grounds in player representation, in that it invested in the “economic rights” of its acquisitions. This meant of course that any transfer fees for players like Tevez would go directly to MSI and its investors.
Hence, Joorabchian was involved in the murky Tevez/Mascherano third party deal with West Ham in 2006 that led to a famous lawsuit with relegated Sheffield United over the fact Tevez scored crucial relegation-avoiding goals when he shouldn’t have been on the pitch at all (it was eventually settled out of court). Joorabchian was involved when Tevez left for Manchester United, and the deal that saw him move to Man City for a record-breaking £47 million. And now Joorabchian is back at it again, in a failed deal with his old haunt Corinthians to bring Tevez back to South America for £40 million.
The deal fell through according to City because supposedly-rich Corinthians could not guarantee a bank transfer of the fee (Joorabchian denies this and says it was a matter of “small details”). The whole thing is a mess of dollar signs, front companies, agents who are not agents, and global financial and regulatory loopholes. It gives me a headache, and that’s part of the point. Like credit default swaps and mortgage trenches, this is the new economic reality. It’s not meant to be understood, it’s meant to be ignored. While the media is doing its best to look into these shady deals, money still runs the show. It’s just now we don’t know who it’s going to.