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Pini Zahavi – the super-agent who is starting to take control of French football

A few years after Jorge Mendes and Mino Raiola, a new powerful agent has decided to flood the French market, as reported by Le Parisien. Using the capital club as a gateway.

It is a title night for PSG. On the 15th of April 2018, the capital’s club has just destroyed Monaco (7-1) at the Parc des Princes and retrieved its Ligue 1 crown. The players are spread out on the field celebrating the event. But without Neymar, still recovering from his right foot injury in Brazil. The Brazilian star’s father, Neymar Senior, is in the stands however.

He has even chosen a very classy place near by the Elysée (the French president residence) to celebrate the club’s success. Sitting next to him, a man called Pinhas (aka “Pini”) Zahavi, 75 years-old and a former sports journalist in Israel. He is also known for being a dominant figure in the football agent milieu since the beginning of the 1990’s, an unofficial counsellor for Chelsea’s Roman Abramovitch and a close friend to the Neymar’s clan. With tanned skin almost all year long, he privately appears to be a very polite and vivacious man – but also very elusive – whenever a camera or a microphone is around.

“When Neymar was just 17 and playing at Santos, Pini was working for Chelsea and tried to recruit him,” says a relative. “The contact has never been broken since then”. Eight years later, Zahavi established himself as the perfect middleman to seal the arrival of Brazil’s n°10 in Paris.

For Neymar, a €10.7m commission

The fact is that Zahavi is not only a close friend to Neymar, who nicknames him “my brother” even though they are separated by two generations. He is also close to Antero Henrique, the current PSG Sporting Director. At FC Porto, in previous years, they worked hand in hand and pulled off some brilliant transfers (Lucho Gonzalez and James Rodriguez, for example) and received some impressive commissions in the process.

A few weeks before starting his new role at PSG, at the beginning of June 2017, Antero Henrique called his old friend Zahavi to let him know about this ginormous deal. The “Neymar operation”, the largest in football’s history (€222m), could be on.

Success never comes by accident, says the super-agent to his collaborators. If I am that successful, it is because it is an everyday job and I’ve been in it for decades”. Thanks to Neymar’s transfer, the 75-year-old reportedly earned a €10.7m commission, as it was revealed in the Football Leaks.

An amount he would have loved to earn, for financial convenience, via one of his Maltese or Cypriot companies. However PSG successfully insisted on depositing the money in Israel, Zahavi’s homeland in which he regularly stays, when he is not in London, Paris or on a plane. Then Zahavi reappeared twice, for Serge Aurier and Lucas’ transfers to Tottenham. But his name was never mentioned.

A facilitator who makes everything simpler

“Zahavi is not a classic agent who participates entirely in a deal,” interprets one of his former associates. “He is more like a “facilitator”. He uses his many connections to make sure the deal succeeds. Without any assurance of automatic success.”

During this winter transfer window, Pini Zahavi has tried to attract Senegalese and Everton’s midfielder Idrissa Gueye. He was not officially mandated by PSG but worked on this transfer. And it looks like the deal is going to fail, as the two clubs continue to fail to find an agreement.

Another example, in 2012, Zahavi spotted the Cameroonian Fabrice Olinga, described as the next Samuel Eto’o. He obtained authorisation from the player’s father and gave him €325k. He promised to give him the same amount if the youngest La Liga scorer (16 years and 98 days) with Malaga signed for a bigger club. Unfortunately, Olinga never fulfilled his potential and lost himself in several loan-spells. The deal was cut short for the super-agent and his company “Gol International”.

Never-mind, his main areas of activity (England and South America) remain solid values and his two young employees manage more than 20 players, including Lazio’s defender Jordan Lukaku and Ajax’s goalkeeper André Onana. Zahavi now has the French League in sight. “It is a very difficult yet very interesting market,” declare those close to him, “There are so many good players”.

One of his main targets? Olympique Lyonnais and more precisely midfielder Tanguy N’Dombélé, “a world class player”. He is reportedly preparing his transfer for next summer. But as always with Pini Zahavi, N’Dombélé’s official agent is not aware of this, yet.

A.D.

 

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