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LONDON (Reuters) - Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis spoke out against the 'cancer' of soccer agents on Wednesday and questioned why clubs should have to pay them in transfer deals for players.
The flamboyant Italian told the Leaders Sports Business conference at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge ground that he also only signed players if he had complete control of their image rights and some deals had fallen through as a result.
"You know, that's a cancer of our domain," the movie producer said of agents, in a discussion with West Ham United's vice chairman Karren Brady. "Not every agent. But I don't understand why you need an agent.
"In Hollywood, the actor pays (the agent) himself. I don't pay the agent. In soccer, why must I pay? The agents became like a tax and sometimes they want to be paid up front. You make a contract for five years and they want to be paid in two and three years.
"Why? Because when they finally receive all the money, they go shopping around and making your players crazy because they will say 'I'm negotiating with West Ham, they will pay you two million more'."
English Premier League clubs spent almost 130 million pounds on agents fees between October 2014 and September 2015, an increase of 15 million pounds from the previous period, according to the league.
The role of agents has been in the headlines after a newspaper sting led to Sam Allardyce losing his job as England manager. The Daily Telegraph also filmed soccer agents boasting about how many managers they had paid off in transfer deals.
Mel Stein, outgoing chairman of the Association of Football Agents, responded to De Laurentiis by saying some people might say the same of club owners and chairmen and there were 'rotten apples' in all walks of life.
"The fact of the matter is that there are some bad people, but you can't call them a cancer," he told Reuters. "They are a small blot on the landscape.
"And with blots on the landscape, you actually have to try and clear the landscape to make it look pretty again. We want to clear it up, and we think we know how."
Stein, who was agent to now retired England players Paul Gascoigne and Chris Waddle, wants a self-regulating body of agents to have a seat on the FA council in England.
De Laurentiis, who rescued Napoli from bankruptcy in 2004 and brought them back to Serie A from the third tier, also said he would like to own clubs in China, the United States and England as well as Italy.
"In England, I would like to start from the bottom and to try to come up little by little," he said.
In the United States, he said his interest would be probably for a club on the East Coast.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar