The following is a translation of an article by French outlet Mediapart, who allege that AS Monaco have been skirting player contract regulations as set out by the LFP, the French league governing body.
Get French Football News takes no responsibility for the authenticity of the content.
French regulation states that an agent cannot touch more than 10% of commission on any transfer, with the principle behind it being that agents should not be able to exact such enormous power or financial gain from the game.
But Monaco’s practices in this regard could be viewed as skirting around this rule, according to Mediapart.
The first alert came from AS Monaco legal officer Daniel Bique in January 2014, according to Football Leaks, who informed the club’s Vice President Vadim Vasilyev that “problems could happen in the future.” He continued: “As you know, there is a rule that insists on a maximum of 10% commission on a player’s contract or a transfer. In the last month, many of our contracts concluded with several agents whose commissions have exceeded 10%. According to these contracts, agents are being mandated to scout for players, teams or sponsors around the world… It would be better if this is used as little as possible, because the more we do like this, the more difficult it will be to justify.”
On that date, there were several contracts that deserved greater scrutiny, two with an agent who had links with Prince Albert, Jean-Marc Goiran. Officially, he was responsible for identifying players in Europe and Francophone Africa. However, Mediapart allege that these contracts actually covered Goiran’s role in the recruitment of defender Nicolas Isimat-Mirin, for which the agent was to receive €480k. He also received a signing bonus worth €150k, justified by a contract describing his duties as “searching, analysing and implementing sporting partnerships between the club and other entities with the goal of developing professional football.” Pretty difficult to be more vague than that.
Goiran went on record with Mediapart and admitted this scheme: “The two bills worth a total of €480k relate precisely to the deal for Isimat,” he confirmed, who has since fallen out with the Monaco hierarchy. However the €150k bonus “relates to the signing of another player” who still maintains that the he personally did not break the 10% commission rule.
In this case, why did the contract have to stipulate that he was searching for players and opportunities? Because Goiran did not have an agent licence to be able to deal-broker in France. This version of events was confirmed by an email sent at the time by Bique to several club representatives:
“Jean-Marc Goiran does not have a FIFA agent licence, can you tell me if he should appear on the agent contract or in which way you want us to proceed to pay him?”
Another agent, Philippe Lamboley, received €400k for “establishing a list of 20 foreign players”. In reality, according to Mediapart, this payment related to a contract linked to the transfer of Anthony Martial, according to a message from Daniel Bique.
Pini Zahavi was also caught up in this practice, being paid €1.5m officially for “identifying players in the English league”. Zahavi, with his company Gol International, based in Gibraltar, was initially charged with looking for Ukrainian and Russian players, but one of Bique’s colleagues wrote to him: “Why did you put the “ukrainian” market? It would be better to put “English”… [Go for] English.”
In reality, Pini Zahavi was being paid for the signing of Elderson Echiejile in January 2014. An unsigned version of his contract seen by Football Leaks indicates that the player did not use an agent. This is a common practice: the agent’s commission is subject to private agreement, and nobody knows about it, especially not the LFP, UEFA or FIFA.
In both practices, the club in question is essentially committing fraud, according to Mediapart analysis.
The Elderson deal was in fact negotiated with two of the most powerful agents in the world, Jorge Mendes and Zahavi: “Zahavi has told me that the signing bonus for the player should be paid to him, not to the player, are you in agreement?” a member of Monaco’s technical staff asked Vasilyev, who responded: “Ok to pay Pini,” for the rest “check with J Mendes.”
Vasilyev and Zahavi get on like a house on fire. In May 2013, just 1 month into Vasilyev’s arrival in Monaco, Zahavi reportedly told him: “I have big projects for us to get our hands on young players in the Balkans.”
The practice of hiding agent commissions through “scouting contracts” – with the “scouts” required to find players – is risky, affirms Bique: “Given that this is a scouting agreement and in order to arouse the least possible suspicion, it would be better for the settlement to be paid in two instalments of €100k,” he wrote in July 2016, this time over paying Dmitry Seluk, the agent of Lacina Traoré, who would in return “search for young talents in Ukraine and Russia” with payment going through a company in Canada.
In the end, Bique preferred in this case to “avoid a scouting agreement” and suggested “to proceed via the billing of legal fees”. If justification is required, no problem: “We have email exchanges with this person about the extension of the player, which would give credence to the scheme.” The manipulation is allegedly so widespread that sometimes it is the agent himself who asks for commission to be paid as a fictitious scouting contract: “€180k upon signing (as a scouting mandate if possible).” Or another who protests that he is missing a “scouting agreement” worth €200k.
All of this has an impact on AS Monaco’s budget. For example, in 2014/15 they claim to have spent €3.6m on agent commissions, and another €1m on “scouting for transfers”.
Another agent made a particularly bold play. In order to buy Jordi Mboula from Barcelona at the age of 18, who still had another year left on his contract, agent Bruno Zandonadi demanded that Monaco pay the €3m release clause and give him a €3m commission. On 21st March 2017, Sporting Director Antonio Cordon indicates: “I do not like agents that demand a big commission for themselves.”
Vasilyev was in agreement: “I do not think that we can pay the €3m release clause and another €3m in commission, plus 20% on a future transfer.” – the Russian left out the fact that it was illegal, but his colleague Nicolas Holveck didn’t: “We would have to be very discreet about the commission. Never write anything in emails about it.”
Vasilyev invited the agent anyway to lunch for “negotiations” – Mboula was quickly bought for €3m, Monaco did not respond to Mediapart for comment relating to how much money the agent earned.
But their 2017/18 budget details 4 payments in August 2017 linked to Mboula: “Agent Mboula-Reina” for €550k, “Agent Mboula-Depit” for the same sum, “Agent Mboula-Mindu (Cercle Brugge) for €300k and “Agent Mboula-Mindu (AS Monaco) for €350k. Mundi being Zandonadi’s company. A total of €1.75m, with potentially more sums to be transferred. Either way, far more than 10% of €3m was paid out…
End of Part 1.