Speaking in an extensive, exclusive interview with Get French Football News, one of Europe’s top agents Mikkel Beck discussed the summer transfer window as a whole and also the current situations regarding some of his clients.
Will things pick up in the next 10 to 14 days in terms of the market, with the World Cup group stages now at an end?
I think it is a little bit of a cliché, even before the market started people were saying that nothing will happen until the 15th of July. I see some clubs have done some transfers, I suppose those clubs have been well-prepared for this market, looking to do their deals during and even before the World Cup. It seems to me that in some cases it would be better for clubs do their transfers before the tournament starts, if the players are playing now, if they are willing. Because everyone is speculating what might this World Cup do for this particular player. If they perform well, the price could go up. If they perform badly, then the price might be the same or even less. Sometimes I just don’t get to understand this market, it is quite funny sometimes, we just have to deal with it. We can’t dictate the market, the market dictates us.
How do you think the Premier League’s decision to shut the transfer window before the season begins this summer will affect business?
I think we have to speak differently from country to country. If we only speak about the English market, I feel most times that after the last game of the season, a lot of the people working in the club actually go on holiday. When they come back, that’s when they start thinking about transfers. They know more-or-less which targets they are going for, but they won’t really start dealing with those targets until they come back. I think we will see some kind of test market, because this is the first time for English clubs that it is closing early.
I think that most of the English clubs won’t actually change their tactics this summer compared to what they did before. I think they will underestimate a little bit the importance of the market closing before normal. I think we will see lots of transfers being done quickly at the end. Suddenly they will realise “oh it is closing now and we have to get something in”. I think it will be a tester, and I think a lot of the clubs will probably be surprised.
Ligue 1 and France have decided to keep the window open until the 31st August. The reasoning seems to be that it will allow French clubs to react to being raided by Premier League clubs in the final days of their window. Do you feel that as well?
I certainly think that’s why France and Germany and other countries have stayed the same way as they normally are. It will give them 3 weeks from the last day of the transfer period in England to somehow go out and find alternatives to what they have just lost. Let’s not forget that English clubs can still sell or loan out after that transfer deadline. It is just that they can’t buy anymore. For the clubs in France in particular, I think it is going to be good this way.
I still don’t get why they changed it in England, I still don’t think it was the right thing to do. But let’s wait and see… I think clubs might look back on this window and say “we did this because we though the other countries would follow us, and they didn’t and it ended up being a negative thing for us in England rather than being a good thing.” I think we will see lots of panic buys at the end, when people realise there is only 1 week left. Quick buys are not always the best buys. But we will have to see.
Your client Sébastien Corchia struggled with the worst injury of his career with that thigh problem this season. How frustrated was he, explain to us what was going his head, because it really did blight any possible chances of making the France World Cup squad.
His mental state now is top drawer, because he cannot wait to get back and actually put all this behind him, what happened this season. During the season, it was really difficult. Let’s not forget, this is a player with virtually no injury history in his career. So to go from never being injured before to suffering a period of not knowing how long it was going to take. You can imagine how hard that was going to be. Let’s not forget, it was his first season away from France, and this was what he was always dreaming of, going out to a big European club and doing really well.
Imagine you are there but you cannot show them what you are capable of. Especially also imagining just before his injury, he played two or three cup games where he was really starting to think “I am getting there,” and then suddenly this and out for that long and never really coming back in a year that you have the World Cup. There was lots of frustrations involved in this period, but Sébastien is a very tough guy and with a strong mentality. He worked his way through this period, but it wasn’t always very easy.
He was actually completely recovered with four games to go (of the 2017/18 season), but that was when the new coach came in, the Spanish coach, who probably didn’t really know some of the foreigners that well and also knew he only had four games to get a lot of points and so I think he went with players he already knew. You have to say, he did well, because he got enough points to get into Europe.
Sébastien is probably more ready than ever, because he wants to have a great pre-season now and get back to playing ways again and to show everyone at the club the real player that they bought. He can’t wait to get going.
On the subject of the French national team, another man to miss out in what was one of the most controversial of Didier Deschamps’ decisions was the omission of Barcelona left-back Lucas Digne, another of your clients. Is he considering his future at Barcelona, especially with the 12 games played as a part of La Liga last season and not making the national team at the end of the season?
We were all surprised. I think that most of the people in France were surprised also, knowing that Lucas had played the last 3 or 4 games up to the World Cup, starting for the team and had played maybe his best games for France since he started playing for them. Everyone was surprised, us included. This is a coach’s choice, and we can agree or disagree but at the end of the day he makes the choice and there is nothing we can do about it except being disappointed and thinking we should have been there and deserved to be there, but this is football for you.
Looking back now, I think Didier Deschamps would have done differently if he had known what would have happened (re: Benjamin Mendy’s fitness). He should have known that Mendy had not played more than 65 minutes of football in 8 months – of course it was a very risky choice. I am not going to question or argue about his choices.
He played a little bit less than he played the season before for Barcelona. Let’s not forget that he was injured for 1 month as well towards the end of the season, so without that injury, he maybe would have had another couple of games that would have put his total tally to more or the less the same as the year before.
When we signed for Barcelona, we knew very well which situation we were going to be in. We knew that there was a very good player in Alba already playing there, who is the number one choice in the national team and a very good player. We knew this situation, Lucas also knew what he was going into. He is very proud to play for this club and he enjoys every game that he gets for them and I think he is showing that because this season I think he played outstandingly. He is a Barcelona player and I think everyone can see that.
We have a long contract still with the club, the club is very happy about Lucas. It is not a situation where the club is saying Lucas has to leave or we saying we have to leave. It is a situation about a club and a player that actually likes each other very much. But you know of course you always want to play more. All footballers want to play week in, week out, but we made the choice to go to Barcelona.
Let’s see what happens, but at the moment we are not really thinking about it. Lucas is at Barcelona, it is the biggest club in the world. You don’t just leave the biggest club in the world. Lucas is happy to stay on and I know and Barcelona knows that Lucas has a big part to play again this season to help achieve their incredible goals. They want to win everything so they need not only 11 players, but 16 to 18 absolute top, world class players to reach those goals, otherwise they can’t achieve them.
Prince Gouano (Amiens) is a player in Ligue 1 who had an absolute standout season. He was voted as part of the joint Get French Football News x The Guardian Ligue 1 Team of the Year. Were you surprised by how quickly he acclimatised to the division?
When someone comes back after some years outside of France, because let’s not forget he left France when he was x. He was out for seven years, came back again to one of the smaller teams in the league, but saw this is a good challenge to get some stability and get a lot of games under his belt and show everyone his true strength. I think he did that from the word go. He was by far one of the best central defenders in the league this season. Amiens had the 4th best defence in the league also, which was an incredible achievement for them and also one of the reasons they stayed up.
I don’t think I was surprised because I know Prince’s qualities, but it is always positive that someone who starts in a new club does so well so quickly.
What does the future hold for him?
All I can say is that he still has a long contract with Amiens, but he is a very ambitious footballer and he is always driving for better things. We have a very good dialogue with Amiens, and if there were to be a club that positioned themselves concretely this summer and finding an understanding with us and Amiens, I know that Prince is open to take the next step already now after one-year at the new club. This is what he is dreaming about. It is something he is very open to.
Rony Lopes (AS Monaco) had a breakout campaign and now has a chance to be a key player for Monaco during the coming season. How do you motivate a client when they are going through a really difficult period? Obviously the two years leading up to the 2017/18 campaign for Rony were very tough owing to various things (disjointed loan spells with Lille) and more recently over missing a place at the World Cup.
Rony Lopes is an incredible person. He is just so strong. We basically knew that it was going to be very difficult to get into that squad for this World Cup because the coach of the national team has had his group in place for a long time, since EURO 2016 actually. He is not really a coach who is known for changing a lot around. We knew that whatever we would do this season, nothing would guarantee us a place in that squad. Of course Rony had to do everything that he could to get there, but we knew that nothing was guaranteed. When we knew he wasn’t in the final group, we were of course disappointed like you have to be, but it was not like we were totally surprised.
I think Rony’s time will come now after this World Cup, I think it is time for players like him to take part in the national team. You just have to ask yourself how you could leave someone like him out of the squad. He was actually the Portuguese player that had scored the most goals in the season in Europe after Cristiano Ronaldo. I suppose that during the World Cup you want to have in-form players, people who are going to change games. This is only my personal opinion, I think that it is incredible to not take him. For me, you would love to have someone like him on the bench or playing because he was on fire.
Earlier this week, there was a line in L’Équipe that we want to get a comment from you on. They say “that Marseille are obsessed with Simon Kjaer and they are dreaming about him”. He has had a stunning World Cup campaign and there have been reports in previous campaigns of your presence at the Marseille training ground. Should Marseille fans be getting their hopes up?
I don’t think so, I don’t think so. First of all, let’s talk about his World Cup campaign. Which I think is close to being world class. I don’t see anyone else having been better than Simon at this World Cup in his position. I think right now he is one of the best central defenders in the world. He is calm, he can play long and short balls, he is strong in duels, he is good in the air, he is quick. Basically, for me he has everything. Of course, in this market, there is going to be speculation about him.
But, Simon signed a contract with Sevilla last summer, after having thought for a long time about it, because he was at Fenerbahce, where he was a big star, but he wanted to play in the best league in the world. And he wanted to prove himself against the best, the Messi’s, the Cristiano Ronaldo’s. He has also been injured a lot this season, so it has been a little frustrating for him also that he has not been able to play all games which he would have wanted to.
Now he wants to go back now and have a really good season with Sevilla and show them that he is ready and try and push with them to finish in the top 3/top 4 this season. We are not looking for any transfer away from Sevilla. We are happy at Sevilla and he is actually looking forward to coming back and having a really good season. He will be coming back as a star now, because he has been the star of this World Cup. So everyone wants to see him back at Sevilla, which is a big club let’s not forget, one of the biggest and best clubs in Europe. He is already at a very good address.
But, you know, as all players in Spain he has a step out clause in his contract and with his performances at this World Cup you never know what might happen during the summer, but we are not looking for any move away. We are happy at Sevilla.
Your client Maxime Lestienne has been a free agent as of Sunday. Why did things not work out at Malaga?
I think they worked out very well at Malaga. I thought he was maybe their best signing in January, looking at the last 6-months of the season. He was by far the most consistent of the new players, I thought he did very well. What was missing was goals and assists, but his general play was to a very high standard. Let’s not forget that he joined a club that was already doomed for relegation. So it was an impossible challenge to change it all on his own. We were very happy with his performances, we hoped that he would have done enough to earn a good contract with another club. With his qualities, he can help many teams.
In Belgium, there is a very strong interest from Club Brugge for him. Would Maxime be open to a move to Ligue 1?
I think he is, if we found the right club, with the right project for him. He would definitely consider playing in Ligue 1 without any doubt. Whatever has happened in Maxime’s career, we have always thought very carefully about what we have done. When we signed in Qatar, we thought very long about that. When we signed in Russia, we agreed that that was the right thing to do. Sometimes things work out, sometimes things don’t work out. Football is a funny sport. It is always hard to adjust quickly.
The next club where Maxime is going to play, I am sure we will think carefully about the pros and cons, we will make the right choice for him. When you make that choice, you never know how long it will be for. It depends. I am very confident about the future of Maxime Lestienne, I am confident in his qualities, there are not many like him on the market: quick, great left foot, who can change the game in one second. So, those kind of players, there is always a market for them. We stay calm for the moment, talk to different clubs, and then will make a decision.
Final question – what’s your reaction to how the Danish national team has performed at this World Cup.
I think it has gone very good. We all believed that we could go through the group at the beginning of the tournament. The team managed it. I think they played a very good set of games, they played their best against Croatia, especially in terms of offensive football – I think they did everyone proud, themselves and also the whole country behind them. I think the deserved to go through as much as Croatia. To go out after a penalty shoot-out is cruel. It was a real 50-50, but I guess that’s football.
We were really disappointed, because I think Denmark had a big part to play in the next game, which would have been vs. Russia. It wasn’t to be. On a personal note, me and Simon are very happy with what the team did. He was the captain, I think he led his team in the best possible way as the skipper and he can be very proud of his campaign. I am looking back on this World Cup with a lot of positives and pride.