SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The ban on third-party ownership (TPO) of players is illegal and will kill competition in European football, one of the sport’s most powerful agents, Jorge Mendes, told Reuters.
The Portuguese, who represents World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo and Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho amongst others, also blasted UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules, saying they only helped strengthen the grip of the elite.
“It’s illegal, completely illegal, illegal, illegal, both things illegal,” Mendes told Reuters in an interview in Singapore this week.
“Most of the people don’t know what they are talking about. You don’t have the right to stop a player to come and have a better job and they are doing it. You are stopping them and this is not legal.”
Last September, world governing body FIFA said a ban on TPO, where clubs sell a percentage of a player to an investor, would begin on May 1.
The practise, prevented in England since 2008, was common in Portugal with clubs like Porto or Benfica seeking investors to help pay for young, talented South American players before selling them onto top clubs at a profit for all.
The method helped Porto win the Champions League in 2004, only the fourth time a Portuguese club had won the elite European club title in 59 seasons.
Mendes said he had given his opinion to some funds on which players to invest in, some of whom, Deco and Ricardo Carvalho, he later helped transfer to other clubs.
He defended the practise, which has come under scrutiny as player transfer fees continue to skyrocket.
He said players like Colombians James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao and Argentine Angel Di Maria, three of his clients who moved to Portugal before joining Real Madrid and Manchester United, may never have made it if TPO was outlawed.
“I know what’s going on, people have no idea, they are using this mechanism to support smaller clubs and to improve,” he said.
“Benfica and Porto don’t get more than 18 million (Euros) ($20.4 million) per year from TV. In England, you are getting, as a small club, 80 million or 90 million. They don’t have the right to improve or to find a way to improve?
“You are killing the competition, killing it. Those clubs Benfica and Porto were playing in the Champions League, doing very well, performing very well but they will not achieve the same level, completely impossible.
“In Spain the same. Atletico Madrid without it they never win the league (last season), never, completely impossible,” he added, citing the impact of his third-party owned client Diego Costa, who later moved to Chelsea.
“What do they want, to have a competition between only Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester United?”
Mendes said UEFA’s FFP rules, where clubs are required to spend within their means rather than rely on wealthy benefactors to bankroll success, only made the elite stronger and prevented others from closing the gap.
“I’m the owner of the club, you want to stop me buying players if I want to spend my money? They are killing football. You can’t do it. This is completely stupid,” he said.
Mendes, who ran a video rental store before rising to become one of the most influential brokers in the lucrative sport, said he expected TPO to be common practise again in the near future and was confident FFP would be thrown out.
“They will stop it. A court, I don’t know where, when, how but they will stop it.
“Financial Fair Play, going to the courts they are going to lose one million percent. Third part ownership, they go to court, one million percent they lose.”
Editing by John O'Brien