Super agent Jon Smith talks transfers, Maradona and not blinking
School was not my thing
I was crap at school. I was always good at putting two people together in a room with two other people and making four, rather than doing it on paper. But that wasn’t really taught. I learned about history and Shakespeare, but school wasn’t really my thing. If anything, school taught me a discipline of thought, that’s all.
Blink and you’ll miss it
One little trick of the trade is the ability to look someone in the eye during negotiations and not blink. If you don’t blink they think you’re tougher than you really are. Of course everyone blinks, but I was taught to look at the bridge of their nose so I don’t blink at all.
The prices this year were bonkers because everyone thinks the English clubs have so much money it doesn’t matter what price they name. Then, in the last few days of the transfer window, that player worth £13million is suddenly worth £25 million. And the weakness of the pound didn’t help. In 2009, we did the deal that took Arshavin to Arsenal with four seconds left of the transfer window.
Too many cooks
There are 1,600 agents in England alone, of which 1,580 don’t do very much. I mean some of them try to be professional but, with respect, 90 per cent of the business in the game is done by 20 people.
I started the Association of Football Agents, which Mel Stein now chairs, and one of the things I want to do is set up a course for would-be agents so they can learn the trade.
Diego Maradona had a few special dispensations in his life in Napoli. He could drive through red traffic lights in his Ferrari simply because he was allowed to, the police didn’t stop him. And if he didn’t feel like getting up for training, it would be put back a couple of hours to suit him. Naples is a very religious place that had big pictures of Jesus hanging from buildings and images of Maradona next to him.
One player we were working for wanted us to find him a British bride so he could stay in the country. We couldn’t do that of course, because it’s not strictly legal!
Jon’s autobiography, The Deal, is out now (published by Little, Brown).